South African golf great Gary Player accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump in a closed-door ceremony on Thursday, a day after a mob of Trump supporters invaded the US Capitol building leading to the death of five people.
It was announced in March last year that Player and Annika Sorenstam would join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to receive what is the highest civilian award, alongside the Congressional Gold Medal, in the US.
But the ceremony was delayed because of the coronavirus and the timing of the new date couldn’t have been worse as it was scheduled a day after chaos erupted in the US capital, when a group egged on by Trump breached Capitol security and temporarily brought a halt to Congress’s confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.
Player het deurgeloop onder criticism with mense on social media feeling he should have declined the award because of Trump.
His son Marc, who runs a company Player sued for over R85m last year because of naming rights, also hit out at his dad on social media.
Marc tweeted: “I wish my father would simply & politely decline this ‘award’ at this time. Tone deaf. In denial. Wrong!!”.
Player, 85, is one of just five players to complete a career Grand Slam. In all he won nine majors and 24 US PGA Tour titles.