The sport of golf certainly isn’t without its faults – the sport has wrestled with significant racial and gender issues over the past 40 years – but I think we all would like to believe that at the player level, there’s a general agreement that we play by the rules and try to do the right thing. There are some notable exceptions, but I think that’s generally true.
So it definitely got my blood simmering when, after a day that saw a historic invasion of our legislative buildings, our President woke up this morning and acted as if nothing had happened. That included a ceremony at the White House to award the Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor) to Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias (posthumously). I guess one could say that it was “on brand” for Trump to do his best “nothing to see here” act, but if you put yourself in Gary or Annika’s spikes, you need to do some serious mental gymnastics to justify showing up.
This ceremony had originally been scheduled for late March 2020, and was postponed due to the pandemic and election season. With time running out on the Trump presidency, and an incoming administration with most likely less of an appreciation for golf, there was probably a feeling of “now or never”. And I get that both Player and Sorenstam are good buddies of Trump’s (they’ve both done appearances at his courses and Sorenstam retweeted Jack Nicklaus’ endorsement of Trump). But that all should pale in significance to what happened in DC yesterday, and the direct involvement of their good buddy in provoking it. Again, how could they watch all of this and still say “hey Don, we still on for 11:30?”
Player and Sorenstam have reputations as being good people. Through a decent part of his playing career, Player certainly embraced Apartheid, but I give him credit for renouncing it later (even if he takes a little too much credit for helping to abolish it). And he’s an enthusiastic supporter of young golfers and embraces his role as golf legend. As for Annika, I’ve actually played a hole with her at a corporate event and she went out of her way to be approachable and fun. But actions speak louder than words, and this should have been an easy decision for them to make. For a sport that prides itself on doing the right thing, they’ve certainly fallen short in this case.
Christine Brennan at USA Today has a similar take today that I recommend you read.