Two days after celebrating his 83rd birthday, Arnold Palmer became the sixth athlete to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given to civilians by Congress.
“I’m particularly proud of anything that the House and Senate agree on,” Palmer said, drawing laughs from an audience that included Jack Nicklaus, Vince Gill and House Speaker John Boehner.
Palmer won 62 PGA Tour events, including seven major championships (four Masters, two British Opens, one U.S. Open). He also helped revolutionize golf in the 1960s with his macho looks, powerful swing and go-for-broke style. Palmer was the perfect figure to lead golf into the television age.
“Arnold Palmer democratized golf, made us think that we too could go out and play, made us think that we could really do anything, really. All we had to do was to go out and try,” Boehner said.
Palmer was also praised for his contributions off the course, including the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando and his service in the U.S. Coast Guard.
The other athletes to receive the Congressional Gold Medal are Jesse Owens, Roberto Clemente, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Byron Nelson.
The House of Representatives voted in April to award a Gold Medal to Jack Nicklaus, where the legislation was then moved to the Senate. Two-thirds approval from Senate would grant Nicklaus the medal.
In 2004, Palmer also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Below are highlights from the ceremony from the Washington Post. Related Photos: Arnold Palmer’s SI CoversRelated Video: At home in Latrobe, Pa., with ArnieArnold Palmer Homepage on Golf.com
(Photo: House Speaker John Boehner, left, with Arnold Palmer and Senate majority leader Harry Reid. By J. Scott Applewhite/AP)