President Donald Trump awarded on Thursday the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player. Babe Didrikson Zaharias was also awarded the medal, posthumously.
The presentation took place in the East Room at the White House with 50-60 people in attendance and “went off without a hitch,” one of the guests told GolfChannel.com. The event was not open to the press. W.L. Pate Jr., president of the Babe Zaharias Foundation, was expected to accept the medal in honor of Zaharias, who died in 1956.
Sorenstam and Player both played golf with President Trump in 2019, with Sorenstam and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) defeating Trump and Player.
The three join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to receive the award.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are the nation’s highest civilian awards.
Sorenstam, 50, won 72 LPGA titles, trailing only Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82) as most in tour history. She won 10 major championships, trailing only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13) and Louise Suggs (11) as most in the history of women’s golf. Sorenstam won the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award eight times and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average six times. She’s the only woman to shoot 59 in LPGA history.
Player, 85, took pride taking the game around the world, winning 165 times around the globe, with 24 of those PGA Tour titles, nine of them major championships. He is one of just five men to win the career Grand Slam, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Zaharias, arguably the greatest ever female athlete, took up golf at age 24 and won 10 major titles. She is also the only woman ever to make a cut on the PGA Tour. In addition to her Hall of Fame golf career, she won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw in the 1932 Olympics.