(WASHINGTON) — Golfing legend Arnold Palmer, known during his prime as “the King,” was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal today in a ceremony in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Palmer, 83, is just the sixth athlete, and second golfer, to receive the honor. He is currently ranked fifth all-time in PGA tour wins, with 62 – including seven major championships.
House Speaker John Boehner, an avid golfer, noted that “what makes this medal unique is that any American can win it, whether it be a general, an artist, an astronaut, or an athlete,” and he commended Palmer as a “model of integrity, passion and commitment.”
“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, R-Ohio, said as he struggled to maintain his composure. “Arnold, you’ve struck our hearts and our minds, and today your government, your fellow citizens are going to strike a gold medal for you.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also commended Palmer for leaving “his mark off the links” through his charities and philanthropic outreach.
The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom — which Palmer received in 2004 from President George W. Bush — are the country’s highest civilian awards. Among the other athletes that have been honored with the congressional gold medal are track Olympian Jesse Owens, baseball hall of famers Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson, boxing icon Joe Louis and fellow golfer Byron Nelson.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio