Gary Player discusses his memories of competition, inspiration, and integration
CSQ Looking back on your career, what is your proudest moment on the golf course?
GARY PLAYER Winning the Grand Slam on the Senior Tour. I’m the only one in the world that’s won the Senior Grand Slam. When I turned 50, I was in as good of condition as when I was 25.
CSQ Your battles with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus over the years qualify as the greatest three-way rivalry ever in professional sports. What was it like behind the scenes?
GP We were fiercely competitive, but we were great friends. We went hunting together and visited each other’s homes. [Golf] is more of a business today. It’s play, get in your jet, and go. But the young guys we have out there today are terrific ambassadors for the sport.
CSQ Who do you feel was the greatest of all time?
GP Ben Hogan. He won nine Majors and then went to war for five years. Then he came home and got in an accident. The greatest athlete I ever saw in golf, by a mile, was Sam Snead.
CSQ How was your early support for racial equality received in your home country of South Africa?
GP I was called a traitor. I went to [South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster], a very staunch believer of Apartheid, in 1969 and said, ‘I want to break Apartheid in sport.’ In those days, you could get 90 days in jail for even suggesting it. Luckily I played some golf with him. And I was criticized for doing so. [Player ultimately convinced Vorster to allow black PGA golfer Lee Elder to complete in the country’s largest tournament.]
CSQ Your incredible fitness regimen is inspiring. Where did it start and what keeps you going?
GP My brother went to war to fight with the Americans and the British at 17 years of age. He asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, I want to be an athlete. He said, ‘You’re too small. I bought you some second-hand weights. Promise me you’ll exercise for the rest of your life.’ I was eight years old. And I’ve kept my promise.
Travel Like a Player
With more than 15 million air miles traveled, Gary Player has three tips for staying one step ahead of jet lag.
Don’t eat on the plane. If you do, make it a papaya or an avocado.
The minute you wake up, look out the window and let the sun in your eyes.
Work out every day, no matter where you are.