Golfers Who Have Won the Congressional Gold Medal: A Fan’s Take

Yahoo Contributor Network

The Congressional Gold Medal is given to people who have done extraordinary things to alter the American consciousness. The legislation is usually passed without controversy. This year, four Representatives voted against Jack Nicklaus in terms of receiving the highest civilian award for "distinguished achievements."

The dissenting votes were uncovered April 27.

Two-thirds of all members of Congress must sponsor the legislation. The recipients are sometimes voted upon posthumously. George Washington, the Tuskegee Airmen, Charles Lindbergh and Thomas Edison have all been awarded the medal.

The four votes against Nicklaus were due to such excuses as the chamber has more important work to do. Another was that the Congressional Gold Medal should be reserved for "heroism and self-sacrifice," according to Rep. Justin Amash.

Yet three other golfers have been given the Congressional Gold Medal. Bob Hope, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer have been given the medal in the past.

Hope was rewarded in 1962. Congress gave the comedian/golfer the medal for "service to his country and the cause of peace." Although Hope wasn't a full-time professional golfer, his contributions to the modern game are immeasurable.

Nelson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 2006. In citing the progenitor, Nelson was approved for the medal due to "significant contributions to the game of golf as a player, a teacher, and a commentator." The vote came just three weeks after the icon's death.

Palmer's award was in part for his "magnetic personality and unfailing sense of kindness" in addition to 62 wins on the PGA Tour. Palmer is also active in charity work.

Nicklaus was approved in Congress as a "world famous golf professional, a highly successful business executive ... and a man with a common touch that has made him one of those most popular and accessible public figures in history." Nicklaus is arguably the best golfer in history in terms of major championships and total victories.

I understand that passing a bill in Congress is hard work. Yet with all of the divisiveness in the legislative body, something should be unanimous. Palmer's medal vote was 422-1 in favor. Rep. Ron Paul voted against Palmer in 2009, according to Paul votes against all uses of public money for awards on principle.

Nicklaus is a living legend revered by anyone who meets him. Fans continually greet him at events and play on his golf courses. The Golden Bear will literally become so when he gets his gold medal. Replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal will be minted for sale for anyone who wants one. A three-inch diameter Byron Nelson Bronze Medal is selling for $44.95 on the U.S. Mint's website.

William Browning has covered sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network including golf and local golf courses in southwest Missouri. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.

View Comments