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3 golf luminaries win Presidential Medal of Freedom

Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and the late Babe Didrikson Zaharias bring to 7 the number of golfers so honored

Awarded: By President Donald Trump, the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three golf legends, the White House announced Thursday. In a ceremony postponed from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump honored Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam and posthumously recognized Babe Didrikson Zaharias. The event was closed to the media, just one day after the Capitol at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue was overrun by Trump-inspired rioters protesting Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Player, Sorenstam and Zaharias join the late Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, the late Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to have received the award. The medal honors “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” It is regarded as one of the nation’s highest civilian awards. Player, 85, of South Africa, racked up nine major championships among his 24 PGA Tour titles and 165 worldwide victories as one of golf’s greatest global ambassadors. Sorenstam, 50, of Sweden, won 72 times on the LPGA, including 10 major titles, to rank third on the women’s tour’s all-time victory list. Zaharias, who died at age 45 in 1956, didn’t take up golf until age 24 after having won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and the javelin for the U.S. at the 1932 Olympic Games. She won 10 major championships in golf and was one of the 13 founders of the LPGA. She remains the only woman to have made a 36-hole cut at a PGA Tour event.

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