A day after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to thwart the certification of the 2020 presidential election results and leaving a wake of destruction in its path, President Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golf legends Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
The event was held in the East Room and was closed to the press.
“This prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, which is awarded by the President to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House.
Sorenstam is one of the greatest golfers of all time. The Swedish legend recorded 90 international victories and 72 LPGA Tour tournament wins. She has the most wins among female golfers and tops the LPGA all-time in career earnings.
During her dominating career, Sorenstam won three ANA Inspiration tournaments, three Women’s PGA Championships, three U.S. Women’s Open titles and one Women’s British Open. She was the 1994 LPGA Rookie of the Year and picked up the LPGA Player of the Year eight times.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias had been credited with paving the way for female athletes. She received the award posthumously as she died at 45 in 1956 after battling colon cancer.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias uses a bit of body English to sink a putt at the All-American tournament at Chicago’s Tam-O’Shanter Country Club 1951. She set a course record of 70 for women and also won the World Championship, never going over par for her eight rounds. (Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Zaharias excelled in several sports, not just golf. She won 10 LPGA major championships – including four Western Opens, three Titleholders Championships and three U.S. Women’s Open titles. She was the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year six times and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1951. She also won two Olympic gold medals in track and field. In the 1932 Games held in Los Angeles, Zaharias won the 80-meter hurdles and the javelin throw. She also won silver in the high jump.
She made an appearance in Major League Baseball as well. Zaharias pitched in a handful of exhibition games in 1934.
“Babe Zaharias is one of the greatest women athletes of all time and did more than anyone else of her generation to promote women’s golf. Her towering legacy will shine forever in the history of American athletics,” the White House said.
Player dominated the PGA during the 1960s and 1970s. He is one of a handful of golfers who have completed a career grand slam. He won the Masters and The Open Championship three times, the PGA Championship twice and the U.S. Open once.
He finished with 24 PGA Tour victories and had six wins on the senior tour.
Trump already awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former pro athletes and coaches last year. Roger Staubach, Lou Holtz and Dan Gable all received the honor.