124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

The King Meets The President

September 29, 2009

ORLANDO -- Arnold Palmer will be at the White House on Wednesday, accepting the Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama. "I think I'm gonna do it," Palmer joked Tuesday at the official re-opening of his Bay Hill Club and Lodge after major renovations.

Palmer, a close friend of the late former President Dwight Eisenhower and most recently Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, wryly admitted he has received tons of messages from friends to pass on to the President. Politics aside, recent American Presidents have always sidled up to The King.

President Clinton presented him the National Sports Award at a gala banquet in Wasington. In 2004, Presidents George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Congressional Medal was first given to then General George Washington in 1776. Asked what the award meant to him, Palmer's eyes twinkled.

"I didn't know George Washington," Palmer said. "But if I did I'd shake his hand and say you were the first and I'm not going to be the last."

Palmer just survived a two-week celebration of his 80th birthday in Orlando and his home of Latrobe, Pa. One of his proudest moments was throwing an 80 MPH fastball down the middle at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He did this after throwing a golf ball for this first pitch.

"Well, it was quite a birthday," Palmer said. "I won't say I'm sorry because the alternative is not so good. I got together with some old friends I don't see much anymore. We laughed and had a lot of fun."

--Tim Rosaforte