By Christina Wilkie - 05/05/11 10:22 AM EDT
Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) is ready to give Tiger Woods another chance at the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.
Baca introduced legislation in March of 2009 that would have awarded Woods the medal, but abandoned it after news of the golfer’s marital infidelity went viral.
Baca declined to address Woods’s personal problems, which some say correlate to the decline in his game.
“People say, ‘[Woods], you’re arrogant,’” Baca said, “And, yes, you were, but you know what? Everybody learns, and you change, and I think he’s changed for the positive.”
Based on these positive changes, Baca said, he’s ready to reintroduce his prior legislation to grant Woods the Congressional Gold Medal, but thus far no timeline has been set. “I would [do it], yes, it’s just timing for people to heal, and to understand,” Baca said.
For the immediate future, Baca is focused on working on getting the medal for another high-profile golfer, Arnold Palmer.
Palmer has already officially received the honor in an Oval Office ceremony with President Obama, but he has yet to receive the actual medal on Capitol Hill.
“The [U.S.] Mint has already developed the coin, so all we’re waiting for … is a date for the Rotunda, and once all of that is coordinated, we’ll have the celebration of giving Arnold Palmer the gold medal.”
Unfortunately for Baca, Tiger’s medal might not be that easy. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner declined to say whether the Ohio Republican would back a move to award the esteemed medal to Woods. Baca (a 2 handicap) and Boehner (a 10) are among the best golfers in Congress.
Public-relations expert Annette Larkin of AGL Consultants Inc. thinks the timing is not even close to being right for the Woods bill.
“It’s hard to comprehend why [Baca] would award the medal to Woods” after his scandal, she said.
“Arnold Palmer just won [the medal] two years ago. Do we really need another golfer on the list, particularly one who has done such a thorough job of trashing his image?” Larkin said.
“I think it’d be a bad PR move to award the medal to someone who had such little regard for how his private actions could affect not only his family, but children who saw him as a role model.”
Baca’s previous measure stated, “To provide for the award of a gold medal on behalf of the Congress to Tiger Woods, in recognition of his service to the nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship, and in breaking barriers with grace and dignity by showing that golf is a sport for all people.”
Baca will be watching Woods as he warms up for next month’s U.S. Open tournament, which will be played at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Baca said he likes to watch players practice days before Thursday’s opening round “because you can really watch them swing without a lot of interruption and fanfare.”
And yes, Baca says, he’ll be rooting for Tiger, “along with a few other players I like.”