A trio of golf icons have been given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a private White House ceremony despite simmering political tensions in the USA.
Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and the late Babe Didrikson Zaharias received the commendations from outgoing president Donald Trump.
The ceremony was originally scheduled to be held last March but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. According to a report in the US, it took place today behind closed doors and less than 24 hours after pro-Trump rioters breached the grounds of the US Capitol during proceedings to certify the result of November’s presidential election.
Four people were killed in the violent clashes that followed, with at least 52 arrests.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the United States’ highest civilian award. It was established in 1963 by President John F Kennedy, superseding the Medal of Freedom that was established by President Harry Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II.
The award is designed to recognise people who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours” and is not limited to US citizens. It is typically awarded annually on or around July 4 – American Independence Day – but it can be given out at other times at the president's discretion
Player, Sorenstam and Zaharias join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods in receiving the award.
Palmer was the first to receive it, in 2004, and was followed a year later by Nicklaus. Sifford was recognised in 2014 by President Barack Obama.
Woods received his medal from President Trump in 2019 following his Masters victory at Augusta National, his 15th major championship triumph.