BOB WEST ON GOLF — President Trump needs to make it right on Zaharias
Perhaps you missed the recent announcements that President Trump had presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz and Iowa wrestling icon Dan Gable. If you did see or hear about it, you might have had the same reaction I did.
What about Babe Zaharias?
Those who read this column regularly know that Zaharias Foundation President W.L. Pate Jr. submitted a letter to Mr. Trump recommending Babe for the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 1, 2019. The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of 12 Texas congressman, headed by Randy Weber of the state’s 14th congressional district.
To me, to anybody with an understanding of who Zaharias was and her amazing, well-documented accomplishments, this was a slam dunk. The letter outlined the Olympic gold medals, LPGA titles and other legendary feats that led the Associated Press, ESPN and Sports Illustrated to name her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.
In the 19 months that have passed since the letter was submitted, it’s been crickets. Speculation had it that the president was too busy on other fronts to be bothered, but then up jumped Holtz and Gable. With all due respect, their qualifications against Babe’s are like sending a canoe up against a battleship.
Meanwhile, just so everybody understands, here are the criteria that were outlined when John F. Kennedy launched the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
To be cited, a person had to be responsible for meritorious contributions to 1. The security or national interest of the United States; 2. World Peace; or 3. Cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Over the years, not surprisingly, the award has become increasingly politicized. In addition, more and more honorees have fallen into the category of No. 3 – cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Trump’s first honoree was a rocking, shocking eye-opener named Elvis. That’s Elvis as in Presley. He also bestowed the honor upon Roger Staubach, Tiger Woods and posthumously on Babe Ruth. President Obama rewarded the likes of Bill Russell, Maya Angelou, Bob Dylan and Billie Jean King.
George W. Bush put the medal around the neck of Nelson Mandela, John Wooden, Hank Aaron, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. His father, George H.W. Bush, opted for Lucille Ball, Ted Williams, Johnny Carson and Ella Fitzgerald.
The list goes on and through eight presidents. It’s downright fascinating and worth the time to Google it. Joe DiMaggio is there. So is Rosa Parks, Bob Hope and Jesse Owens. Martin Luther King, Billy Graham and Frank Sinatra were winners.
After going through roughly 650 men and women selected for the elite group, one conclusion fairly screamed at me.
Babe Zaharias is more than worthy and it’s a crying damn shame if she is denied something that should have been done years ago. Maybe she was never nominated and that, too, would be an unfortunate oversight. But it is not fake news that she was nominated on May 1, 2019 and every day that passes without it happening is unconscionable.
Zaharias was an American hero on so many levels, not the least of which was her willingness to be out front about cancer at a time when it was discussed in hushed tones. Babe Ruth refused to go public with much of anything about his cancer. It was just pretty much a taboo subject in that era.
Not for Babe Zaharias. She was open and front and center about her colon cancer and became a passionate advocate for cancer research. She did not try to hide the fact that 14 months after being told she would never play golf again she won the U.S. Women’s Open by 12 strokes while using a colostomy bag.
Among those whose attention Babe grabbed was then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The day she died Eisenhower opened a press conference by saluting her.
“I would like to pay tribute to Babe Didrikson Zaharias for her greatness and her goodness,” he began. “She was a woman who in her athletic career won the admiration of every person in the United States and all over the world.”
If it were up to Eisenhower, Zaharias would long ago been rewarded with the Presidential Medal of Honor. Better late than never, President Trump. You need to right this terrible oversight.
CHIP SHOTS: Rainy, wet conditions and cold again limited competitions at Babe Zaharias Golf Course. Only results were from the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball where the team of James Vercher, Tony Trevino, Art Turner and Bobby Kimball won the front with plus 1.
On the back, the foursome of James Cady, Danny Robbins, Rusty Hicks and Dan Flood placed first with plus 1.
Local PGA professional Jerry Honza will be conducting two Christmas week clinics, with the first on Monday, Dec. 21 and the second on Dec. 22. Hours are 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The clinics will be conducted at Zaharias and are open to golfers ages 10 and up. Cost of each clinic is $50. To sign up or get more information, call Honza at 409 719-3949.
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