WASHINGTON -- Arnold Palmer turned 83 on Monday but he had to wait until today for his biggest gift, a Congressional Gold Medal that recognizes both his contributions to the game of golf and his humanitarianism.
Congress voted to award the medal in 2009 but it has taken three years for the U.S. Mint to design and produce the gold coin depicting Mr. Palmer's image. As the honoree, he had some say over the design but didn't see the finished product until today.
During a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda, House and Senate leaders presented the medal, which is considered one of the nation's highest expressions of appreciation, matched only by the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Mr. Palmer was awarded eight years ago.
The celebrated pro golfer and Latrobe native has plenty of other hardware -- PGA tournament trophies, U.S. Masters trophies and U.S. Open trophies to name a few -- but the two medals give him the most pride. That's because they celebrate more than just his athleticism.
"I like to think I've done a great deal for the game of golf, but I would rather think that my contributions to charity, to the welfare of the people of America, things like that, are equally as important as what I've done in golf," Mr. Palmer said in an interview.
"It's one of the greatest honors in our country and I am extremely flattered to have been elected to receive it."
Mr. Palmer is credited with helping to found The Golf Channel, negotiating a deal to build China's first course and for contributing to health causes through the establishment of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando; the Arnold Palmer Prostate Center at Luci Curci Cancer Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.; UPMC's Arnold Palmer Pavilion at Mountain View Medical Park; and the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
He is a chairman of the Latrobe Hospital Foundation and is active in many charities in Latrobe and Orlando.
The medal honors contributions to American history and culture as well as major achievements in the recipient's field. It's been awarded to war heroes, explorers, actors, authors, entertainers and others.
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