Houston – Patriot Golf Day founder Major Dan Rooney, Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson and Brad Faxon have been honored with three prestigious awards given by the Golf Writers Association of America.
Rooney, who flew three combat tours in Iraq, was honored with the William D. Richardson Award, given annually to recognize individuals who have consistently made an outstanding contribution to golf. Gustafson, who battles a severe stuttering problem, won the Ben Hogan Award for remaining active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. Faxon, a 28-year veteran on the PGA/Champions Tour, was honored with the ASAPSports/Jim Murray Award, which recognizes a golfer for cooperation, quotability and accommodation with the media.
They will be honored, along with GWAA Players of the Year Luke Donald, Yani Tseng and Tom Lehman at the Annual GWAA Awards Dinner, April 4 in Augusta, Ga.
After Rooney, a former F-16 pilot, returned from his second tour in Iraq, he founded Patriot Golf Day and the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships to spouses and children of military members disabled or killed in service. Patriot Golf Day has raised more than $12.8 million in its first five years and has given more than 2,600 scholarships. In 2008, Rooney was honored as one of ABC World News Tonight’s Persons of the Year and one of People Magazine’s Heroes of the Year. The owner of two golf courses and a PGA of America professional, Rooney has received the White House's Presidential Volunteer Service Award, the Air National Guard's Distinguished Service Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the PGA of America's first-ever Patriot Award. He was a runaway winner over East Lake re-developer Tom Cousins and the PGA Tour Wives Association.
Gustafson has been on eight Solheim Cups and won five LPGA events in her 13-year career, but hasn’t gotten the attention that such a record would merit because of her stuttering problem. Last fall, she opened up and went “outside my comfort zone” to do a pre-Solheim television interview with incredible grace and dignity. She often lets her thoughtful – and fun side -- and her sense of humor show through on her blog and in her tweets. She edged Bryce Molder for the Award. Heath Slocum finished third.
In one of the closest votes in GWAA history, Faxon won the ASAP/Jim Murray Award by just seven votes over Stewart Cink, while Greg Norman finished third. Faxon has won eight PGA Tour events and won his first Champions event -- the Insperity Championship – last fall and is one of the most accessible players. He has played more than 700 rounds and has likely been approached by a media member after at least 95 percent of them. After winning at the Insperity, he took a whipped cream pie in the face on the Golf Channel, then came to the media room still wiping the pie off his face and clothes. Faxon and Billy Andrade were honored with the GWAA’s 1999 Charlie Bartlett Award for their Billy Andrade/BradFaxon Charities for Children, Inc., which was formed in 1991 and has donated more than $8 million to youngsters in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Faxon also won the 2005 Payne Stewart Award.
Past recipients of the Richardson Award, named for The New York Times’ William D. Richardson who was instrumental in the founding of the GWAA in 1946, include Jack Burke, Jr., the Harmon Family, Furman Bisher, Pete Dye, Louise Suggs, Judy Rankin, Nancy Lopez, Sandy Tatum, Dan Jenkins, Judy Bell, Babe Zaharias, Jack Nicklaus, Ely Callaway, Ben Hogan, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, Patty Berg, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Harvey Penick, Peggy Kirk Bell, Frank Hannigan, Kathy Whitworth and Lee Trevino.
Former Hogan award winners include Rankin, Tom Watson, Barbara Douglas, Ken Green, Erik Compton, Denis Watson, Hubert Green, Bruce Edwards, Jeff Julian, Scott Verplank, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Casey Martin, Paul Azinger, Robert Allenby, Lee Trevino, John Mahaffey, Jim Nelford, Ken Venturi, Terri-Jo Meyers and Steve Jones.
This is the 10th year for the ASAP/Jim Murray Award. Previous winners were Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Juli Inkster, Palmer, Nicklaus, Lopez, Nick Price, Fred Funk, Jay Haas and Gary Player.
The 900-member GWAA takes an active role in protecting the interests of all golf journalists, works closely with all of golf’s major governing bodies and the World Golf Hall of Fame.