Palmer honoured for sportsmanship

Comment on this story
IOL pic sep13 golf arnold palmer medal Associated Press Golfing legend Arnold Palmer (centre) receives the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio (left) an avid golfer himself, during a ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington. Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada is seen on the right.

Washington - Arnold Palmer became the sixth athlete to earn a Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony on Wednesday where the golfing great and humanitarian made light of the divided United States lawmakers who gave him the award.

Congress bestowed Palmer, 83, with its highest civilian award in “recognition of his service to the country in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship”.

“I'm particularly proud of anything that the House and Senate agree on,” said Palmer, drawing laughter and applause from a US Capitol crowd of a few hundred people, including often warring Democratic and Republican leaders.

A winner of more than 80 professional tournaments worldwide, including seven major championships, the charismatic Palmer helped popularise the game of golf over a half century ago with a hard-charging style that drew his own “Arnie's Army” of fans.

Along the way, he helped build more than 300 golf courses as well as, in Florida, the Arnold Palmer Medical Centre, which includes two hospitals for women and children, one named for him and the other for his late wife, Winnie.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Palmer “an icon of American sports and a success in all of his endeavours - a humanitarian, a businessman, a philanthropist”.

House Speaker John Boehner, Congress's top Republican and one of its most avid golfers, said Palmer, a product of humble roots, changed what had been long been a game for the elite.

“Arnold Palmer democratised golf,” Boehner said. “(He) made us think that we, too, could go out and play, made us think we could really do anything. All we had to do was go out and try.”

Another golfing great, Jack Nicklaus, who had been one of Palmer's chief rivals, joined the award ceremony, saying: “He's a golf icon to the world - a good friend to me.”

Palmer, in brief remarks, said: “I'm very humbled. Thank you.”

The Congressional Gold Medal dates back to 1776. Its first recipient was the first president of the United States, George Washington.

Wednesday's award ceremony was held in the Capitol Rotunda near statues of three presidents who Palmer had golfed with - Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

Palmer, in remembering some of his rounds with Eisenhower, said: “We enjoyed a little golf, and a lot of fun.”

The only other athletes to receive the award are baseball's Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson, Olympian Jesse Owens, boxer Joe Lewis and golfer Byron Nelson. - Reuters

sign up

Comment Guidelines

  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

  5. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. You are only required to verify your email address once to have full access to commenting on articles. For more information please read our comment guidelines