The medal ceremony did not happen without criticism and some amount of eye-rolling. Ethicists pointed out that Woods has business ties with the man at whose discretion the medal is awarded – such as a course-design deal in Dubai overseen by Donald Trump’s organization. Purists can’t get past Woods’ past. And the politically minded believed he should have skipped the event altogether (as tweeted by writer Rick Reilly, author of the Trump golf book, “Commander in Cheat”).
No minds will be changed after one White House medal ceremony. Those who believe Woods unworthy of any admiration will remain stuck in that rut. And those capable of separating the golfer from the man will at least recognize that he is a towering cultural figure every bit as deserving of that medal as the other three golfers who have worn it – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford.
Personally, I choose the course of sheer amazement.
Just nine years ago, Woods’ image was in ruins. Now he’s getting a medal from the President? That, even more than his Masters victory last month, is the real crowning achievement of his comeback story. For that hints at a redeemed man, not just a healed golfer.
The pedestal is a greased pole. Once those few who make it there fall off, they seldom return. And, yet, Woods has completed that task.
His fall from grace was epic. His return has been no less grand (although we’ll resist using the word “heroic”).
Woods surely ain’t no Mother Teresa. He didn’t walk on the moon. He didn’t cure polio. He inhabits no moral high ground.
But what he has done and where he has been is important, and it touches people and maybe it even contains a message in there, somewhere, that enlightens and uplifts. For a golfer to manage all that just might merit a medal.