President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golf pros Annika Sörenstam and Gary Player on Thursday. Babe Didrikson Zaharias was also awarded the medal posthumously, Golf Channel Digital reports.
Zaharias won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw in the 1932 Olympics but is perhaps most remembered as the woman who won 10 major golf titles and the only woman ever to make a cut on the PGA Tour. Sörenstam and Player are retired professional golfers.
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 medal and the Congressional Gold Medal are the nation’s highest civilian awards.
The awards came on the day after rioters breached security barriers and desecrated the US Capitol, just down the street from Thursday’s ceremony.
They also came after a season for high school golfers that was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic in Illinois and left the state without golf champions for the first time since the sport became an activity for schools.
The Illinois High School Association announced in early October that the regional and sectional tournaments would be the final tournaments this year in the sport.
“Our board’s decision when we modified and added the sectionals was that that would be the culminating experience,” the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette quoted Craig Anderson, executive director of the IHSA, as saying. “We wouldn’t move into state championships. There’s just a number of roadblocks at this point that makes it challenging, and our board had already decided they wouldn’t revisit adding state championships.”
The boys’ golf titles in Illinois date back to the 1937-38 school year, and the girls’ golf titles date back to the 1975-76 school year. Neither activity has missed a year in that long history, until this year of Covid.