BOB WEST ON GOLF: Zaharias’ feats leave no doubts she’s deserving

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It has been six weeks since Fourteenth District congressman Randy Weber nominated Babe Zaharias for the Presidential Medal of Freedom and I’m starting to get antsy. The more I’ve looked over the list of sports stars selected for the honor, the more Babe looks like she should be a slam dunk.

Three criteria are basically used by presidents to bestow the award. For the sports elite, of whom 33 have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the consideration applied is, “Cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Tiger Woods, as you probably are aware, was the latest to have the honor bestowed on him. President Trump moved quickly to recognize Tiger after his stirring Masters victory in April. That made him the third golfer to be saluted with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Arnold Palmer in 2004 and Jack Nicklaus in 2005, both by President George W. Bush, were No. 1 and No. 2. Obviously, no argument with either of those two, but possibly a question about the absence of Ben Hogan.

Enhancing the case for Zaharias is not only a world-class resume that extends beyond golf championships. Also factoring in is the glaring lack of women who have been deemed worthy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

To date, tennis great Billie Jean King and University of Tennessee women’s basketball coaching legend Pat Summit, both rewarded by President Barack Obama, are the lone female sports figure to be singled out for one of America’s most prestigious medals.

Zaharias, arguably, was the greatest female athlete of all time. She won Olympic gold medals, 10 LPGA majors, made cuts in PGA tournaments, was among the biggest celebrities of her day, got the LPGA Tour off the ground, pitched to major league hitters, excelled in basketball and was Muhammad Ali before anybody knew there was a Cassius Clay.

“Who is going to finish second this week?” Babe was known to say when she arrived at golf tournaments.

Though standing 5’7’’ and weighing only 115 pounds, Zaharias was one of the longest hitters in golf — man or woman. Legendary PGA star Sam Snead found that out the hard way.

During an exhibition she outhit ‘Slamming Sammy’ off the tee by roughly four yards, according to recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Peggy Kirk Bell.

“When they got to their drives, Sam wanted to know where Babe got her golf balls,” said Bell. “Babe replied: ‘Same place you do, Sam. We both work for Wilson.’ ”

The closing argument for Babe entails designations by the Associated Press and ESPN. AP deemed her the Female Athlete of the 20th century and the 9th greatest athlete (male or female) of the 20th century. ESPN proclaimed her the 10th greatest North American athlete (male or female) of the 20th century.

That folks is a slam dunk and grand slam rolled into one. If Babe’s remarkable body of work is not deemed worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, there are going to be some uncomfortable questions to answer.

CHIP SHOTS: In lieu of local another hole in one to report, Lamar University ex Shawn Stefani gets the spotlight for the ace of the week.

Stefani authored his fifth ace as a pro in last week’s 3M Open at the TPC Twin Cities, using a 7-iron from 176-yards on No. 4.

The hole in one helped Stefani to a T15 finish and jumped him from No. 133 to No. 121 on the Fed Ex Cup points list in a late-season charge to save his playing card. Stefani’s former LU teammate, Chris Stroud, also trying to save his card, dropped from 115 to 120 after missing the cut.

Andrew Landry, whose card is not on the line, dropped from 167 to 170

Stefani, who played high school golf at Barbers Hill, is best remembered for his ace on the 17th hole in the 2013 U.S. Open at historic Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia. It was the first ever ace in five U.S. Opens played at Merion . . .

PN-G ex Braden Bailey, in his fourth unsuccessful bid to Monday qualify into a Mackenzie Tour event in Canada, shot a one-under-par 71 to finish T55 out of 148 players. It was the fourth consecutive Monday qualifier in which Bailey posted an under-par score . . .

Brody Jeanes added a 75 to his first day 73 for a 148 that barely held off fast closing Nederland ex Brendan Marley in Boys 15-18 at the YMBL Junior Championship played Monday and Tuesday at Bayou Din Golf Club. Marley finished a stroke back at 149 after rouds of 78-71.

Other flight winners included Lincoln Parks (160 in Boys 13-14), Ricardo Cardenas (181 in Boys 11-12), Elizabeth Townsend (167 in Girls 15-18), Annabel Cardenas (186 in Girls 13-14) and Tatum Bean (211 in Girls 11-12) . . .

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Bob Luttrull, Jimmy Cady, Rusty Hicks and Richard Menchaka won the front with minus 5.On the back, the foursome of Joe Gongora, Benny Sharpe, Harrell Guidry and Randy Fontenot placed first at minus 2 . . .

The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias saw the team of Russ Gloede, Rick Pritchett, Keith Marshall and Roger Baumer take the front with minus 5. The team of Adam Davis, Scotty Ray, Jeff Rinehart and Larry Foster took the back with minus 3 . . .

In the Friday Zaharias 2 ball, the team of Kenny Robbins, Raymond Darbonne, Hicks and John LeBlanc scored a sweep, winning both sides in minus 2 . . .

Dan Flood and Charlie Leard pulled off a unique team eagle-eagle on the par 5, 3rd in Monday’s Senior 50 Plus game. Flood struck first, holing a pitching wedge from 50 yards. Leard followed by rolling in a 20-foot putt. Alas, despite playing the hole in four under, their team did not win the front.

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