Gary Player

Gary Player, 74, has enjoyed a Hall of Fame career on the golf course

that now is in its seventh decade. Over that time, he has won more


than 150 tournaments, including nine majors, and is one of just five players

to who have captured golf’s career Grand Slam. Off the course, Player is a

renowned golf course architect, philanthropist, and has used his fame

to spread the gospel of fitness. The legendary Black Knight sat with Global Golf Post Senior Correspondent Lewine Mair to discuss a number of topics, from Tiger Woods to his

goal of living to 100. 

 
 
 

 

GGP: Has Tiger’s on-going predicament taught the golfing world something

of the dangers of deifying a player too soon? 


GP: To be honest, I don’t see this as a lesson the golf world has

to learn. I see it as a lesson that Tiger has to learn.  We cannot

blame the media for making him out to be something he was not. Being

world No. 1 and arguably the most recognizable athlete on the planet

does not give him – or anyone else for that matter – the right to

dishonor his family. I think Tiger is a great golfer and will more

than likely end his career as the greatest we have ever seen, but his

mistakes were of his own making.  


GGP: Ever since Tiger started setting records in the amateur arena, parents

have been encouraging their offspring to do as he did in starting golf

almost as soon as they can walk. Would you sooner see children playing

a variety of games at an early age – as, indeed, you did yourself? 


GP: I’m not too worried about children homing in on golf at an

early age. The main thing is that they should be out doing something

and not spending their days in front of the television and playing

video games. I want to get a message through to 100 million

schoolchildren to make them understand that your body is a holy temple.

But how do you do this when they are fed absolute junk by their

parents? Just look what they eat. Many start their day with a white

bread roll and two pieces of fatty bacon, very possibly covered in

cheese. It’s ruinous to their health. It’s all fat. 

There is not a school in the U.S. or South Africa or Britain, I know of,

that teaches children how to eat. You can’t just get by on academics.

Schools have got to make the first subject every day about health. At

the same time, they should be allocating an hour a day for strenuous

exercise. 


GGP: Since you are in the unique position of having played winning

golf across six decades, can you identify your particular strengths at

various stages? 


GP: Up until the age of 30, my biggest strength was my burning

desire to win tournaments and, more importantly, majors. Also, the

commitment I made to diet, health, fitness, practice and training my

mind to always think positively. I knew that I wasn’t the most

talented person on the course, but I was determined to be the best

prepared, both physically and mentally. 

Between 30 and 45, I would identify my strengths as technical know-how

allied, once again, to my mental approach and physical fitness. In the

case of the latter, my early training allowed me to carry on competing

at the highest level at a time when most players start to lose a bit of

strength. 

From 45 to 55, it was always my physical fitness. When I

turned 50 and began my career on the Champions Tour, I knew that I had

a much shorter window to win majors. I set a goal for myself – to win

the Grand Slam on the Champions Tour – and I knew that I had to be in

top physical condition to do so. I won nine senior majors and, though

others might find this hard to believe, I consider that to be a greater

accomplishment than my nine regular majors. 

In my 50s and 60s, it was physical fitness again – that along with

a wealth of experience. I knew how to win because I had won majors and

faced just about every pressure situation that is possible to face, both

on and off the course. Nothing fazed me at this point in my career. 

Now I’m in my 70s, I have to say that “fun” is the major factor. I

still play competitively, and winning still gives me the same rush as it

did 50 years ago. That certainly applied when I won the Demaret

Division with my friend Bob Charles at last year’s Legends of Golf. 

Yet, as I mentioned, the golf I play today is about enjoying the

experience of playing with old friends and rivals, interacting with the

crowds and paying homage to the game and the people who allowed me to

have such a fulfilling career. 


GGP: Many of us have heard you say that you have spent more time in

planes than anyone else. Has your body become accustomed to being in

the air as much as on the ground or do you still get jet-lag – and if

you do, have you ever found the cure? 


GP: Oh, I still get jet-lag. I am on the road about eight to nine months

each year and it is a difficult schedule to maintain, but I love it. I

don’t know if my body is more accustomed to flying versus staying on

the ground, but after more than 50 years of travel and over 15 million

air miles, it is pretty much second nature. 

My cure for jet lag is fairly straightforward – eat healthy, low-fat

meals, avoid sweets and snacks that drain your energy (sugary foods are

a killer), drink lots of water, exercise and sleep whenever you can to

get on the local time zone. 


GGP: When some of the moderns start winning, the first thing they seem

to do is to invest in a series of ever-faster cars. Did you ever go

through such a phase or were you always committed to setting things up

for your family – and then for the school you run on your farm at home? 

GP: In my day, the purses where nowhere near what they are today, so

my earnings went immediately to supporting my family and my playing

career, which involved a lot of expense because South Africa was my

starting point. I soon had six children to support, so any idea that I

could go out and buy a fast car would never have had a chance of making

it past my wife, Vivienne. 

I remember one day about five or so years ago I was playing with one of

the hot young stars dubbed the next challenger to Tiger. He

asked me if I had my own plane and what kind it was because he was

looking into buying one for himself. Now here was a guy who had never

won any kind of professional tournament and he was thinking about

buying his own private jet. I would have thought he would have done

better to ask me about my golf, finding out how much practice I did,

etc. Mastering your mind and game should always come first. Only then

can you start thinking about toys. 

My school – Blair Atholl – is one of my greatest, if not my greatest,

accomplishments in my life off of the course. I am so proud of what we

have built and the education we have been able to provide for so many

needy children. I had a humble upbringing and know first-hand what it

means to have very little. It’s a difficult life that children do not

deserve. They cannot choose their parents or what situation they are

born into. My dedication to helping them is one of my true passions. 


GGP: Your wish is to live to 100. A lot of people say they wouldn’t

want to live that long. How do you plan to make the most of the later

years? 

GP: I have no doubt that I will make it to 100. What’s more, there are

plenty of things to keep me enthusiastic about the years ahead. I expect 

to keep traveling to the same extent over the next decade

because I so enjoy traveling to the different countries and learning

about cultures and heritage. I also love planning courses. At Gary

Player Design, we’re taking a more aggressive approach to sustainable

design and I am trying to make it a central element in every new

project. Just think about how much water your average golf course uses

at a time when there are so many other needs for what is a slowly, but

surely, dwindling resource. Also, the overuse of dangerous chemicals and

fertilizers has to stop. 

When I do slow down, I will try to spend as much time as I can on my

farm in Colesburg, where I have my own eco-friendly course that I and a

handful of fellow workers have been building over the past 10 years.

I love it in Colesburg – the animals, the mountains and the peaceful

living. It is my Nirvana.

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