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Gary Player

Gary Player
Personal Information
Johannesburg, South Africa
Height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Weight 150 lb (68 kg)
Residence Jupiter Island, Florida and
Colesberg, South Africa
College None
Turned Pro 1953
Tours PGA Tour (joined 1957)
Champions Tour (joined 1985)
Professional wins (163)
PGA Tour 24 (25th all time)
Champions Tour 19
Other 120 (Regular)
13 (Senior)
Major Championship Wins (9)
Masters (3) 1961, 1974, 1978
U.S. Open (1) 1965
The Open (3) 1959, 1968, 1974
PGA Championship (2) 1962, 1972
PGA Tour Money Winner 1961

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 was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has logged more than 14 million miles in travel, probably more than any other athlete. Dubbed the Black Knight, 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, Gary Player Real Estate, and Gary Player Enterprises, and aspects of which include licensing, publishing, videos, 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 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 July 2007, a media controversy emerged over his statements at the British Open golf tournament about the use of performance enhancing drugs in golf. Subsequently, the PGA Tour introduced a formal policy.

In October 2007, further media controversy arose about his involvement in the 2002 design of a golf course in Burma.

Background and family

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 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 20 grandchildren. 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 represents Player in all his commercial activities, including 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.

Regular 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 a hundred and sixty-six, and tied fourth in major championship victories with nine. Along with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus he is sometimes referred to as one of "The Big Three" golfers of his era — from the late 1950s through the early 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 from Bobby Locke, and 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 twenty four career titles. He also played an exceptionally busy schedule all over the world, and he has been called the world's most travelled athlete, clocking up more than 14 million miles. He has more victories than anyone else in the South African Open (thirteen) and the Australian Open (seven). He held the record for most victories in the World Match Play Championship, with five wins, from 1973 until 1991 when this feat was equalled 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 in 1969.

He was the only player in the 20th century to win the (British) Open in three different decades. 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 win to his dedication to the concept of golf fitness.

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. 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 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 and "Gary Player — A Global Journey" exhibition 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.

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 Fred Bullock, Flory Van Donck
1961 The Masters 3 shot lead -8 (69-68-69-74=280) 1 stroke Charles Coe, Arnold Palmer
1962 PGA Championship 2 shot lead -2 (72-67-69-70=278) 1 stroke Bob Goalby
1965 U.S. Open 2 shot lead +2 (70-70-71-71=282) Playoff 1 Kel Nagle
1968 The Open Championship (2) 2 shot deficit +1 (74-71-71-73=289) 2 strokes Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus
1972 PGA Championship (2) 1 shot lead +1 (71-71-67-72=281) 2 strokes Tommy Aaron, Jim Jamieson
1974 The Masters (2) 1 shot deficit -10 (71-71-66-70=278) 2 strokes Dave Stockton, Tom Weiskopf
1974 The Open Championship (3) 3 shot lead -2 (69-68-75-70=282) 4 strokes Peter Oosterhuis
1978 The Masters (3) 7 shot deficit -11 (72-72-69-64=277) 1 stroke Rod Funseth, Hubert Green, 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

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:

PGA Tour wins (24)

Major championships are shown in bold.

Other wins

In addition to his wins on the PGA Tour, Player won more than 100 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:

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

Player also collected wins in 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.

Other senior wins (13)

The Senior British Open is shown in bold as it is generally recognised as a major and it is now an official Champions Tour event and major. However, it was not an official Champions Tour event as recognised 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 restrospectively designated as Champions Tour wins by the PGA Tour at this time. The Senior British Open is however recognised 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

In the bag

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


In 1966, Gary 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 civilised values and standards amongst the aliens.

Player has apologised 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.'' 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.

In 2002, Gary 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.

Player has hosted the Nelson Mandela Invitational Golf Tournament since 2000. 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. Player refused to withdraw as he owns the event and issued a statement rebutting these claims via his website

The event is now annually staged as the Gary Player Invitational and is South Africa's largest and most successful charity event, having raised a record amount of money for various children's charities.

Distinctions and honors

  • 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 featured on a South African stamp.
  • Has designed over 250 golf courses 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.
  • In 2006 received the Payne Stewart Award.
  • Played in his 51st Masters Tournament at Augusta National in April 2008, overtaking Arnold Palmer's record of 50 (which he equaled in 2007) 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.


See also


External links

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