WASHINGTON — Arnie's Army, at least the congressional battalion, turned out at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday for presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to golfing legend Arnold Palmer.
"I'm particularly proud of anything that the House and Senate agree on," Palmer, 83, joked to a crowd that included a number of golfing lawmakers.
In 2009, Congress approved — and President Barack Obama signed — legislation by Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., an avid golfer, awarding Congress' highest civilian honor to Palmer.
At the presentation Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, choked up as he recounted his experience with Palmer on a practice green at Pebble Beach, describing how the men shared stories about their father's influence on their lives.
"Here we were standing in one of the most venerable places in golf. We weren't there talking about golf. . We were there talking about our fathers," Boehner said.
"We cried our eyes out," he added.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Palmer "an icon of American sports" who "demonstrated sportsmanship, courtesy and friendship to fans and competitors alike."
"What better statement than to have Jack Nicklaus here to testify to that?" she added.
Palmer is among more than 100 recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Walt Disney and another golfer, Byron Nelson.
The House earlier this year approved a Baca bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Nicklaus in "recognition of his service to the nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf." The measure is awaiting Senate action.
Baca, who called the round of golf he played with Palmer "one of the greatest experiences of my life," noted that Palmer has supported numerous philanthropic causes.
"I am very humbled," Palmer said.