Arnold Palmer to receive Congressional Gold Medal


ORLANDO, Fla. – Arnold Palmer is going back to the White House to meet another president and collect another medal.

Arnold Palmer Masters
Arnold Palmer hits the first tee shot as the honorary starter at the 2009 Masters at Augusta National. (Getty Images)

Palmer said Tuesday that he has been selected to receive a Congressional Gold Medal, an honor that has been around since the American Revolution and recognizes distinguished achievements and contributions.

Beyond his seven major championships, Palmer used his charisma and hard-charging style to make an elite sport popular with the masses. In golf circles, he is known simply as “The King.”

Palmer was scheduled to go to the White House on Wednesday, where President Barack Obama was to sign the Arnold Palmer Gold Medal Act.

The golfing great also received the National Sports Award from former President Bill Clinton in 1993, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush in 2004.

Palmer is the second golfer to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, which must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the House and Senate. Byron Nelson received the medal short after his death in 2006. The medal has been presented 141 times, the first one to George Washington in 1776.

“I didn’t know George Washington,” Palmer said with a grin. “But if I did, I would shake his hand and say, ‘You’re the first, and I won’t be the last.”’

The medal caps a big month for Palmer, who turned 80 on Sept. 10 and had a birthday party that stretched out over two weeks. Among the festivities was throwing out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game.

“I threw an 80 mph fastball right down the center of the plate,” Palmer said. “And they took me out.”