The Final Whistle

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom and golf

    More stories from Jon Fortier

    The Final Whistle
    May 15, 2019

    When you think of someone being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the first thought isn’t necessary sports figures.

    The White House defines the Medal of Freedom as “the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

    On Wednesday, Pro Golfer Tiger Woods was awarded this medal by President Donald Trump. I have written before about the accomplishments of Woods and his incredible comeback, but this isn’t what is catching headlines.

    Almost immediately after the ceremony, articles began to come out saying the award was tainted because it came from the Trump administration and Woods was knocked for being friends with the president. There is also the argument of Trump trying to use Woods’ Masters win as a publicity stunt to make him more popular.

    All of this criticism represents the ongoing war between the media and Trump. No other president has faced as much scrutiny over the awarding of these medals.

    Since President John F. Kennedy founded the medal of freedom in 1963, 33 sports icons have received the honor. Woods is now one of just four golfers to be recognized. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were awarded the medal by President George W. Bush in 2005 and Charles Sifford by President Barack Obama in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus is arguably one of the best golfers to play the game. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Nicklaus played professional golf from 1961 to 2005. The Golden Bear has 73 PGA tour wins which is good for third all time.

    Over his career, Nicklaus won 18 majors and is the all-time leader in that category. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. Nicklaus represents the golden age of golf during the time when golf became a more accessible sport and is still a cultural icon to this day

    Arnold Palmer is from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and brought a championship pedigree and charismatic attitude to the game. His passion for the course and unique follow through with his clubs made him more relatable to the masses and challenged the stiff professionalism that existed in other players.

    Palmer played from 1954 to 2006 and amassed 62 PGA Tour titles which is good for fifth all time. In addition, The King won seven majors and is famously known for mixing iced tea and lemonade during a long hot day of golf course designing in 1960. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 1974 alongside Nicklaus. Palmer died in 2016 at the age of 87.

    Charles Sifford is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and was the first African American player to play on the PGA tour. While he doesn’t have the winning resume of everyone else, his actions of breaking the color barrier speaks for itself.

    In 1947, after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier, Sifford told Robinson that he planned to follow in his trailblazing path. Sifford was inducted into the hall of fame in 2004. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 92.

    Tiger Woods’ legacy is the strongest of everyone. He is tied for the most PGA Tour wins at 82 and is showing no signs of slowing down. He also has the second most major wins at 15 behind Nicklaus. He is this generation’s best golfer and arguably the greatest of all time.

    It is shameful that due to the current feelings towards President Trump, Woods had his moment ruined by the current political climate. Woods is the most accomplished African American golfer and deserves better.

    His miraculous career comeback gives hope and inspiration to all.

    Whether he was given the medal for selfish reasons or not, it should be seen as a moment of unity in a country that is deeply divided, not as a moment to further the divide.

    Fortier can be reached at [email protected].