International Golf Federation (IGF) President Annika Sörenstam and nine-time major winner Gary Player have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from United States President Donald Trump, amid calls for him to be removed from office.
Sweden's Sörenstam and South Africa's Player were named as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honour, back in March.
The public ceremony had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the honours presented privately yesterday.
Trump also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Babe Zaharias, who won 10 golf majors and two athletics medals at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games.
Zaharias died of cancer at the age of 45 in 1956.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is typically awarded to individuals the President considers to 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."
Sorenstam and Player join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Charlie Sifford, and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"The world knows Annika on a first-name basis after her legendary 15-year professional golf career that broke world records and forever changed the way women’s golf is played," the White House said when announcing Sörenstam's honour back in March.
"Annika earned her way into the World Golf Hall of Fame after becoming the only player in Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour history to shoot 59, achieve 89 worldwide victories (including 72 LPGA and 10 Major Championships), and be awarded prestigious titles including the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year and the Golf Writers Association of America Female Athlete of the Year.
"In 2008, Annika stepped beyond professional golf to focus on her family, foundation, and brand.
"Annika is an athlete, philanthropist, and entrepreneur who has committed her life to winning."
Sörenstam became IGF President this month.
She succeeded Peter Dawson, who stepped down from the position after 10 years.
Sörenstam and Player have both played rounds of golf with President Trump, who is a keen golfer.
Player was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump, with the South African one of only five men to ever capture golf’s coveted career Grand Slam.
Player won nine major championships on the regular tour, along with nine majors on the senior tour.
The Player Foundation and the Gary Player Invitational were also praised for raising substantial sums for underprivileged children across the globe.
The private award ceremony, held yesterday, came hours after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington DC, resulting in at least four deaths.
Trump supporters halted the Joint Session of Congress, which was being held to certify the election of Joe Biden as President.
President Trump had earlier addressed supporters at a rally outside the White House, encouraging them to protest the election result.
Sörenstam and Player have both faced criticism for accepting the award, with many seeing it as a tacit endorsement of the outgoing President and Player's son Marc labeling the ceremony "tone deaf" on Twitter.