BOB WEST: Zaharias awards still on, other Babe stuff in flux

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Much is in flux where the ever-evolving legacy of Babe Didrikson Zaharias is involved. Much of that can be blamed on lifestyle changes forced by COVID-19 and uncertainty about when the new normal is implemented.

Of four significant happenings tied to Zaharias, only the $250,000 facelift for the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum in Beaumont doesn’t have questions hanging over it. According to BDZ Foundation president W.L. Pate Jr., the phase one renovation is pretty much on track, with a finish date expected in early June.

A little less certain is the 10th annual BDZ high school golf awards dinner set for June 10 at Lamar University. School closures and a shortened high school season raised speculation the 2020 dinner would be canceled, but Pate says he is hopeful it can be held as scheduled.

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That will ultimately depend on where Texas is in relation to public gatherings and crowd sizes.

Port Neches-Groves golf coach Jerry Honza, who oversees the event, is working on a plan to select boys and girls winners for best player and leadership awards, in the absence of district, regional and state tournaments.

Definitely postponed is the inaugural Babe Zaharias Women’s All Pro Tour tournament scheduled for the week of June 5-12 at Beaumont Country Club. Pate is working on negotiating a new date for the 72-hole event and says late August or early September is where he expects it to land.

Last, but certainly not least, there is the matter of the push made by Pate and Texas legislators, headed by Fourteenth District Congressman Randy Weber, to have Zaharias named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Weber’s letter outlining Babe’s credentials was sent to President Trump last May 1.

COVID-19 concerns are likely to block any further discussion of Zaharias and the medal in the near future, but there is consternation among some that months passed without action on her behalf.

In the meantime, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February and two non-American golfers — Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam — were named to receive it.

Presentations were to have been made to Player and Sorenstam last month but are in limbo because of all the time, energy and expense being devoted to dealing with the virus.

Nearly one full year after being nominated, Zaharias, with over-the-top qualifications nobody questions, seems to be an afterthought.

“I continue to encourage our friends in Congress to make the president aware of our submission at the appropriate time,” said Pate. “These are reviewed by much lower staff members before it moves up the chain of command.”