Trump awards medal to Tiger Woods, calls him ‘true legend’

Tiger Woods won his first major in nearly 11 years at last month’s Masters Tournament

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Tiger Woods pose for a picture with, from left, Woods’ girlfriend Erica Herman, his mother Kultida Woods, children Sam Alexis Woods and Charlie Axel Woods during a ceremony awarding Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Donald Trump awarded golfer Tiger Woods the nation’s highest civilian honour on Monday, describing the 43-year-old as a “true legend” who transformed golf and then fought through years of injury to return to the sport’s summit.

Trump awarded Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s the fourth golfer to earn that distinction and certainly the youngest. While Woods dominated the sport for more than a decade, he won his first major in nearly 11 years at last month’s Masters Tournament, a comeback that captivated the sporting world.

READ MORE: Masters: Tiger caps comeback with 15th major title

“Tiger was back on top,” Trump declared during the Rose Garden ceremony.

If there were a Mount Rushmore for golfers, Woods would almost certainly be on it. He ranks second in PGA Tour wins and in major tournament victories. But the president’s decision to award the nation’s highest civilian honour to Woods also raised scrutiny about whether the president should be boosting the profile of a business associate of The Trump Organization.

Trump understood the importance of Woods comeback to golf and its fans, tweeting shortly after the Masters win that he was awarding Woods the medal because of his “incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE.”

Trump has been using Woods’ cachet to attract fans to his properties for decades. Trump got Woods to show up at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a day after the golfer’s first Masters victory in 1997. The place was mobbed. Two thousand fans showed up as Woods walked down a 320-foot red carpet, some of them storming steel barricades to get a closer look.

Trump has also struck business deals with Woods.

Golfers at Trump’s club in Doral, Florida, can stay at the Tiger Woods Villa. At a ribbon cutting ceremony in 2014, Woods lavished praise on the future presidential candidate, calling changes he made to the club “phenomenal.”

In Dubai, Woods designed an 18-hole course to be managed by The Trump Organization.

Ethics officials have criticized Trump for not selling off his assets completely and holding the money in a blind trust. Instead, he set up a trust to hold his assets, handed day-to-day management responsibilities to two sons and hired an ethics lawyer to vet business deals. Trump can draw money from the trust and can benefit if his properties increase in value.

“You have to ask whether it’s his true belief Tiger Woods deserves this award or whether he’s doing it to help his business,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning public policy group.

Christopher Devine, an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, said Trump may have a business angle, but when he stacks up Woods’ accomplishments against other recipients, he believes Woods deserves it.

“If President Obama or Hillary Clinton had given the award to Tiger, no one would have batted an eye,” said Devine, who has studied the history of the award, established in 1963.

President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Obama presented it to Charlie Sifford, sometimes referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of golf.” Woods noted that he named his son after Sifford. “He was like the grandpa I never had,” Woods recalled.

Devine also noted that previous presidents have presented the award to supporters and political donors. For example, Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Bruce Springsteen, who performed in concerts to support Obama’s election efforts. He also awarded it to his vice-president, Joe Biden.

Woods was joined at the ceremony by his mother, Kutilda; daughter, Sam Alexis, 11; son, Charlie Axel, 10; and girlfriend Erica Herman. Woods’ father, Earl, passed away more than a decade ago. Woods’ longtime caddie, Joe LaCava, also attended.

Woods became emotional as he spoke of his parents, and he thanked those who have supported him over the years, saying, “You’ve seen the good and bad, the highs and lows, and I would not be in this position without all of your help.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours,” according to the White House. Presidents have complete discretion over whom they honour with the medal.

Some athletes and sports champions have resisted visiting the Trump White House because of their differences with the president.

Rick Reilly, who wrote a book about Trump’s golfing entitled “Commander in Cheat,” said Woods has brought golf to people of colour all over the world, while Trump has promoted it as a sport for the rich. He said Woods has not been one to take stands on political issues, but should have declined the award in this case.

“I can see how it would be hard to resist, but I still think it’s hypocritical to do it,” Reilly said.

Associated Press writer Bernard Condon in New York contributed to this report.

Kevin Freking, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

SidFest 7 ready to rock the Mary Winspear Centre

The Bankes Brothers and Madrona Drive headlining May 24 concert

Penelakut filmmaker Steve Sxwithul’txw finds success in film and TV

Cop-turned-storyteller reaches back to his past for Tribal Police Files

Choir offers a capella take on Beatles hits

Soundings will perform concerts in Oak Bay and Sidney May 24 and 25

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Canadian killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Most Read