Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Babe Didrikson-Zaharias to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom
Featured Golf Culture

Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Babe Didrikson-Zaharias to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

A photo of golfer Gary Player

A trio of legendary golfers are set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump.

In a January 7 ceremony, Trump, whose term will end two weeks later, will award Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Babe Didrikson-Zaharias with the highest honor a President can bestow on a civilian.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are the biggest honors the federal government can bestow on an individual -- and they do not have to be an American citizen.

The award was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, superseding the Medal of Freedom established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II. Since its inception, the Presidential Medal of Freedom has been awarded to fewer than a dozen people each year.

President Trump awarded Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019, just weeks after Woods won his 15th major at the 2019 Masters Tournament. Woods became the 33rd athlete and fourth golfer to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, joining Arnold Palmer (2004), Jack Nicklaus (2005) and Charlie Sifford (2014).

The trio of golfers receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Jan. 7 will become the 39th, 40th and 41st athletes to receive the honor.

Gary Player of South Africa has won hundreds of golf tournaments around the world, including nine major championships, and his just one of a handful of golfers to win the men's career Grand Slam. He has traveled millions of miles in the name of being an ambassador for the game and been a prolific golf-course architect.

Annika Sorenstam is considered the best female golfer of the modern era. She won 10 LPGA majors in her career, part of 72 remarkable LPGA wins. She became the first woman in more than 58 years to play on the PGA Tour, competing in the Tour's event at Colonial Country Club in Texas in 2003. She remains an ambassador for the game, a host for a new European Tour event in her native Sweden and is the new president of the International Golf Federation.

Babe Didrikson-Zaharias broke the gender barrier on the precursor to the modern PGA Tour, first competing against male pros in 1938. She made her last start against men in 1945, and she made the 36-hole cut in three events, missing the 54-hole cut in one. When the LPGA was founded in 1950, the multi-sport star was a force, winning 41 times in her career.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

Ryan talks about golf on various social platforms:

X or Twitter:

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]

Ryan occasionally links to merchants of his choosing, and GNN may earn a commission from sales generated by those links. See more in GNN's affiliate disclosure.