Today, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to golfer Arnold Palmer in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf. The medal was authorized under Public Law 111-65, enacted on September 30, 2009.
The obverse of the medal was designed and sculpted by Don Everhart and features an image of Palmer finishing his golf swing with the inscription “Arnold Palmer”. The reverse, designed by Phebe Hemphill and sculpted by Joseph Menna, features a pair of crossed golf clubs at center with a golf on a tee at the base. The inscriptions read “In recognition of his service to the nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship”, “92 Professional Gold Victories”, and “7 Major Championships”.
As they have done for past Congressional Gold Medals, the United States Mint has produced bronze reproductions which are offered for sale. The 3-inch medal is priced at $39.95 and the 1.5-inch medal is priced at $6.95.
Some background on the design selection: Three obverse design candidates and four reverse design candidates were originally provided to the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) for review and comment in October and November 2010. As the honoree, Arnold Palmer was also given the opportunity to express his preference from the design candidates. (See the original design candidates here.)
Arnold Palmer expressed his preference for the obverse and reverse design candidates shown above. The CFA supported the same alternatives, however they made some specific recommendations to refine the designs. For the obverse, they recommended that the overlap of Palmer’s hands and the text should be eliminated. For the reverse, they recommended removing the figural scene at the top and recomposing the remaining elements.
The CCAC had favored the same obverse design, however the alternate reverse design shown above was recommended. Even though members recognized Palmer’s preference for the other design, they felt that this one was a better choice artistically. The Chairman said, “when we reduce art to text, we have reduced the medal or the coin to a book,” moving from an object of beauty to be admired to an “item for reading.” In contrast, he felt the alternate design depicting a close up image of a golf club and ball as a “very striking, very focused setting.”
Ultimately, the final designs were chosen by the Secretary of the Treasury, taking into account the preferences and recommendations of the various parties. The CFA’s recommendation to recompose the reverse was followed, although no changes appear to have been made to the obverse.
As a final side note, the US Mint also continues to offer 3-inch and 1.5 inch bronze medals for Byron Nelson, another golfer who received the Congressional Gold Medal though an Act of Congress in 2006.