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Gary Player
All Black.jpg
Personal information
Full name Gary Player
Nickname The Black Knight
Born 1 November 1935 (1935-11-01) (age 74)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Nationality  South Africa
Residence Jupiter Island, Florida;
Colesberg, South Africa
Turned professional 1953
Current tour(s) PGA Tour (joined 1957)
Champions Tour (joined 1985)
Professional wins 164
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 24 (25th all time)
Champions Tour 19
Other 120 (regular)
14 (senior)
Best results in Major Championships
(Wins: 9)
The Masters Won: 1961, 1974, 1978
U.S. Open Won: 1965
Open Championship Won: 1959, 1968, 1974
PGA Championship Won: 1962, 1972
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1974 (member page)
PGA Tour
leading money winner
Southern Africa Tour
Order of Merit winner
1976/77, 1979/80
(For a full list of awards, see here)

Gary Player DMS; OIG (born 1 November 1935) is a South African professional golfer. With his nine major championship victories as well as his nine major victories on the Champions Tour, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of golf. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. Player has won tournaments on six continents.

Player was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has logged more than 15 million miles in travel, probably more than any other athlete.[1] Dubbed the Black Knight [2], Mr. Fitness, and the International Ambassador of Golf, Player is a renowned golf course architect with more than 300 design projects throughout the world.

His business interests are represented by Black Knight International, which includes Gary Player Design, Player Real Estate, and Black Knight Enterprises, aspects of which include licensing, events, publishing, wine, apparel and memorabilia.

The Gary Player Stud Farm has received worldwide acclaim for breeding top thoroughbred race horses, including 1994 English Derby entry Broadway Flyer. He operates The Player Foundation with its primary objective to promote underprivileged education around the world.

In 1983, The Player Foundation established the Blair Atholl Schools in Johannesburg, South Africa, which has educational facilities for more than 500 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. In 2008 it celebrated its 25th Anniversary with charity golf events in London, Palm Beach, Shanghai and Cape Town, bringing its total of funds raised to over US $30 million [3].


Background and family

Gary Player swings at the 2009 Gary Player Invitational
Gary Player swings at the 2009 GPI in Edinburgh, Scotland

Gary Player was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the youngest of Harry and Muriel Player's three children. When he was eight years old his mother died from cancer. Although his father was often away from home working in the gold mines, he did manage to take a loan in order to buy a set of clubs for his son Gary to begin playing golf. The Virginia Park golf course in Johannesburg is where Player first began his love affair with golf. At the age of 14 Player played his first round of golf and parred the first three holes. At age 16 he announced that he would become number one in the world. At age 17 he became a professional golfer.

Player married wife Vivienne Verwey (sister of professional golfer Wayne Verwey) on January 19, 1957, four years after turning professional. Together they have six children: Jennifer, Marc, Wayne, Michele, Theresa and Amanda. He is also a grandfather to 21 grandchildren.[4] During the early days of his career Player would travel from tournament to tournament with wife, 6 children, nanny and a tutor in tow.

Eldest son Marc owns and operates Black Knight International, which exclusively represents Player in all his commercial activities, including all endorsements, golf course design and real estate development.

He is also the brother of world renowned wildlife conservationist Dr. Ian Player who saved the white rhino from extinction.[5]

Regular PGA Tour career

Player is one of the most successful golfers in the history of the sport, ranking third (behind Roberto de Vicenzo and Sam Snead) in total professional wins, with at least 166, and tied for fourth in major championship victories with nine. Along with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus he is often referred to as one of "The Big Three" golfers of his era — from the late 1950s through the late 1970s — when golf boomed in the United States and around the world, greatly encouraged by expanded television coverage. Along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, he is one of only five players to win golf’s "career Grand Slam". He completed the Grand Slam in 1965 at the age of twenty-nine. Player was the second multi-time majors winner from South Africa, following Bobby Locke, then was succeeded by Ernie Els, and Retief Goosen.

Player played regularly on the U.S. based PGA Tour from the late 1950s. He led the money list in 1961, and went on to accumulate 24 career titles. He also played an exceptionally busy schedule all over the world, and he has been called the world's most traveled athlete, clocking up more than 15 million miles. He has more victories than anyone else in the South African Open (13) and the Australian Open (7). He held the record for most victories in the World Match Play Championship, with five wins, from 1973 until 1991 when this feat was equaled by Seve Ballesteros, finally losing his share of the record in 2004, when Ernie Els won the event for a sixth time. Player was ever-present in the top ten of Mark McCormack's world golf rankings from their inception in 1968 until 1981; he was ranked second on those rankings in 1969, 1970 and 1972, each time behind Jack Nicklaus, and had those rankings been based on just the most recent two seasons (like their modern counterpart) Player would have been number one several times.

He was the only player in the 20th century to win the (British) Open in three different decades.[6] His first win, as a 23-year-old in 1959 at Muirfield, came after he double-bogeyed the last hole, and broke down in tears thinking he had lost his chance, but none of the remaining players on the course could match the clubhouse lead he had set. In 1974, he became one of the few golfers in history to win two major championships in the same season. Player last won the U.S. Masters in 1978, when he started seven strokes behind the leaders entering the final round and won by one shot with birdies at seven of the last 10 holes for a back nine 30 and a final round 64. One week later, Player came from seven strokes back in the final round to win the Tournament of Champions. In 1984, at the age of 48, Player nearly became the oldest ever major champion, finishing just behind Lee Trevino at the PGA Championship. And in gusty winds at the 1998 Masters, he became the oldest golfer ever to make to the cut, breaking the 25-year-old record set by Sam Snead. Player credited this feat to his dedication to the concept of diet, health, practise and golf fitness.[7]

Being South African, Player never played in the Ryder Cup in which American and European golfers compete against each other. Regarding the event, Player remarked, "The things I have seen in the Ryder Cup have disappointed me. You are hearing about hatred and war." [8] He was no longer an eligible player when the Presidents Cup was established to give international players the opportunity to compete in a similar event, but he was non-playing captain of the International Team for the Presidents Cup in 2003, which was held on a course he designed, The Links at Fancourt in George, South Africa. After 2003 ended in a tie, he was reappointed as captain for the 2005 Presidents Cup, and his team lost to the Americans 15.5 to 18.5. Both Player and Jack Nicklaus were appointed to captain their respective teams again in 2007 in Canada; the United States won.

In 2000 he was voted "Sportsman of the Century" in South Africa. In 1966, Gary Player was awarded the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. The "Gary Player — A Global Journey" exhibition was launched by the Hall of Fame as of March, 2006.

In 2000, Player was ranked as the eighth greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[9]

In 2002, Player was voted as the second greatest global golfer of all time by a panel of international media, golf magazines and fellow professionals conducted by the leading Golf Asia Magazine.

On 10 April 2009, he played for the last time in The Masters, where he was playing for his record 52nd time. He was the last of The Big Three (Nicklaus, Player & Palmer) to retire from this tournament, a testament to his longevity.

On 23 July 2009, at the age of 73, Player competed in the Senior British Open Championship at Sunningdale Golf Club, 53 years after capturing his maiden European Tour victory at the Berkshire venue.[10]

Major championships

Wins (9)

Year Championship 54 Holes Winning Score Margin Runner(s)-up
1959 The Open Championship 4 shot deficit E (75-71-70-68=284) 2 strokes Scotland Fred Bullock, Belgium Flory Van Donck
1961 The Masters 3 shot lead -8 (69-68-69-74=280) 1 stroke United States Charles Coe, United States Arnold Palmer
1962 PGA Championship 2 shot lead -2 (72-67-69-70=278) 1 stroke United States Bob Goalby
1965 U.S. Open 2 shot lead +2 (70-70-71-71=282) Playoff 1 Australia Kel Nagle
1968 The Open Championship (2) 2 shot deficit +1 (74-71-71-73=289) 2 strokes New Zealand Bob Charles, United States Jack Nicklaus
1972 PGA Championship (2) 1 shot lead +1 (71-71-67-72=281) 2 strokes United States Tommy Aaron, United States Jim Jamieson
1974 The Masters (2) 1 shot deficit -10 (71-71-66-70=278) 2 strokes United States Dave Stockton, United States Tom Weiskopf
1974 The Open Championship (3) 3 shot lead -2 (69-68-75-70=282) 4 strokes England Peter Oosterhuis
1978 The Masters (3) 7 shot deficit -11 (72-72-69-64=277) 1 stroke United States Rod Funseth, United States Hubert Green,
United States Tom Watson

1 Defeated Kel Nagle in 18-hole playoff - Player (71), Nagle (74)

Results timeline

Tournament 1956 1957 1958 1959
The Masters DNP T24 CUT T8
U.S. Open DNP DNP 2 T15
The Open Championship 4 T24 7 1
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
The Masters T6 1 2 T5 T5 T2 T28 T6 T7 T33
U.S. Open T19 T9 T6 T8 T23 1 T15 T12 T16 T48
The Open Championship 7 WD CUT T7 T8 WD T4 T3 1 T23
PGA Championship DNP T29 1 T8 T13 T33 T3 DNP DNP 2
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
The Masters 3 T6 T10 DNP 1 T30 T28 T19 1 T17
U.S. Open T44 T27 T15 12 T8 T43 T23 T10 T6 T2
The Open Championship CUT 7 6 T14 1 T32 T28 T22 T34 T19
PGA Championship T12 T4 1 T51 7 T33 T13 T31 T26 T23
Tournament 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
The Masters T6 T15 T15 CUT T21 T36 CUT T35 CUT CUT
The Open Championship CUT CUT T42 CUT CUT CUT T35 T66 T60 CUT
PGA Championship T26 T49 CUT T42 T2 CUT DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
The Masters T24 CUT CUT 60 CUT CUT CUT CUT 46 CUT
The Open Championship CUT T57 CUT CUT CUT T68 CUT CUT CUT CUT
Tournament 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10

Summary of major championship performances

  • Starts – 158
  • Wins – 9
  • 2nd place finishes – 6
  • Top 3 finishes – 18
  • Top 5 finishes – 23
  • Top 10 finishes – 44
  • Longest streak of top-10s in majors – 7

Player has won over 160 professional events worldwide, including:

Professional wins

PGA Tour wins (24)

Major championships are shown in bold.

European Tour and other international wins

In addition to his wins on the PGA Tour, Player won more than 120 other tournaments in "regular", that is non-senior golf.

South Africa Tour (now the Sunshine Tour)
73 wins between 1955 and 1981 including:

PGA Tour of Australasia
18 wins between 1956 and 1981 including:

  • Australian Open: A record 7 times between 1958 and 1974. Jack Nicklaus won 6 and Greg Norman 5 times.

At least 20 other wins between 1955 and 1984, including:

Player also collected wins in Australia, Brazil, North and West Africa, Canada, Japan and Latin America.

Champions Tour wins (19)

Senior majors are shown in bold. See "Other senior wins" below for Player's wins in the Senior British Open.

European Senior Tour & other wins (14)

The Senior British Open is shown in bold as it is generally recognized as a major and it is now an official Champions Tour event and major. However, it was not an official Champions Tour event as recognized by the US PGA Tour when Player achieved his wins, and in contrast to early wins in regular British Opens by PGA Tour members, which are now included in their official PGA Tour win tallies, wins in early Senior British Opens by Champions Tour members have not been retrospectively designated as Champions Tour wins by the PGA Tour at this time. The Senior British Open is however recognized as a major by all other international bodies, such as the European Tour. It is widely believed the Americans will eventually designate these as majors just as they have the regular tour's British Open


Callaway is Gary Player's preference, and it is all that is in his bag.

  • Driver: FT-5 Callaway
  • Fairway Woods: Strong 4, 5 and 9 Callaway Steelhead Woods
  • Hybrid: Callaway Heavenwood 4H
  • Irons: 5-PW X-Tour Callaway
  • Sand wedges: 56 Degree and 64 Degree X-Tour Callaway
  • Putter: Odyssey Whitehot #1
  • Ball: Callaway HX Tour
  • Glove: Callaway
  • Shoes: Gary Player Collection
  • Putter Grip: Odyssey
  • Apparel: Gary Player Collection
  • Belt: Gary Player Collection

Golf course design

Through the years, Player and Gary Player Design have executed a portfolio of over 300 projects in 35 countries on five continents. The mission of Gary Player Design is to conduct their business in the same manner in which Gary Player has conducted himself as a golfer and gentleman during his 50-year career. Their services revolve around building long-term mutually rewarding relationships with clients by displaying integrity and credibility in a business setting. From project conceptualization through planning, design, construction, marketing and opening, the group takes a proactive role in providing experienced solutions throughout the intricate development process.

The company offers three different design brands: Gary Player Design, Player Design and Black Knight Design. The marketing advantages of each of these brands vary according to the personal participation of Player, as well as the access to different levels of intellectual property.

Gary Player Design also upholds a strict environmental policy, which includes minimizing site disturbance, promoting organic applications, and specifying environmentally-sensitive building materials in their golf course design approach. They continue to refine efforts in these areas and stay current on related state of the art industry methods.

Their primary focus, however, is on one of earth’s most precious resources and one of Gary Player's greatest concerns – water.[11] According to Player, "Water conservation techniques are not only our fundamental responsibility, but are important to the industry of golf and the global growth of the wonderful game of golf, as real water-savings also mean real cost-savings."


In July 2007, a media controversy emerged over his statements at The Open Championship golf tournament about the use of performance enhancing drugs in golf. Subsequently, the PGA Tour introduced a formal policy.

Player has almost always "spoken his mind" and been considered a controversial albeit frank and forthright professional golfer. He has been a pioneer of diet, health and fitness although he upset the Atkins Diet organization by disagreeing with their "all protein" approach. He was branded a "traitor" by South African Nationalist Government supporters for inviting and bringing both black tennis pro Arthur Ashe and golfer Lee Elder to play in South Africa. He was the first golfer to call on mandatory drug testing on all tours around the world.

In 1966, Player was quoted in a book entitled Grand Slam Golf in which he wrote:

I am of the South Africa of Verwoerd...a nation which is the result of an African graft on European stock and which is the product of its instinct and ability to maintain civilized values and standards amongst the aliens.

Player has apologized profusely about this statement, saying he was a young man who never proof read the book's manuscript prior to going to print and that the quote was never made by him but rather the writer of the book."[12] It is believed that Player's attitude towards the apartheid regime is very different today and has so far raised over 100 million dollars through his foundation to support under-privileged education in South Africa during apartheid.[citation needed]

In 2002, Player designed a golf course in Burma, named by the developers, The Pride of Myanmar, currently frequented by tourists as well as generals of the army. There are unsubstantiated accusations that the land for the courses was seized from poor farmers without compensation. Regardless, as a designer Player had nothing to do with how the land was acquired.[12]

Player has hosted the Nelson Mandela Invitational golf tournament since 2000. In October 2007, further media controversy arose about his involvement in the 2002 design of a golf course in Burma. As a result of the recent political uprisings in Burma, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund has withdrawn from the fundraising golf tournament because of Player's unsubstantiated business links with the country. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have however accepted Player's position and statements on Burma.[13] Player refused to withdraw as he personally built the event from scratch and issued a statement rebutting these claims via his website. The event is now annually staged at the Fancourt Resort as the Gary Player Invitational and is South Africa's largest and most successful charity event, having raised a record amount of over R250 million for various children's charities.[12]

Distinctions and honors

  • Received the 1966 Bob Jones Award from the United States Golf Association.
  • Named Honorary Member of the R&A in 1994.
  • Received Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from St. Andrews in 1995.
  • Received Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland in 1997
  • The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational trophy is named the Gary Player Cup.
  • Named Honorary Member of Carnoustie in 1999
  • Received Honorary Doctorate in Law, University of Dundee, Scotland in 1999
  • South African Sportsman of the Century award in 2000
  • Received the 2003 Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monte Carlo.
  • Awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (in gold) by President Mbeki of South Africa for excellence in golf and contribution to non-racial sport in South Africa.
  • He was the world's first golfer to be featured on any country's postal stamp in South Africa.[citation needed]
  • Has designed over 300 golf courses on six continents around the world.
  • Coined one of the most quoted aphorisms of post-War sport: "The harder you practice, the luckier you get."
  • He currently plays on the U.S. Champions Tour and European Seniors Tour occasionally.
  • He received the 2006 Payne Stewart Award from the PGA Tour.
  • Played in his 52nd Masters Tournament at Augusta National in April 2009, extending his record of for most Masters appearances
  • Inducted into the African American Sports Hall of Fame in May 2007, with Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Has played in a record 46 consecutive British Open Championships, winning 3 times over 3 decades.
  • Stars with Camilo Villegas in a MasterCard "priceless foursome" television commercial launched during the U.S. Open in June 2009
  • In November, 2009 he was awarded the inaugural Breeders Cup "Sports and Racing Excellence Award" at Santa Anita Park in California which honors owners and breeders of thoroughbred race horses.

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Gary Player (born November 1, 1935) is a South African professional golfer generally regarded as one of the greatest players in the game's history. He is one of only five to have ever won the career Grand Slam of golfs all four majors. Dubbed the Black Knight, Mr. Fitness and the International Ambassador of Golf, Player is a renowned golf course architect with over 300 design projects throughout the world.


External links

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