When golf historians or casual players are asked who the greatest all-time golfers are, a few name always roll off their tongues. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods are all common answers along with another man and his name is Gary Player.
Gary Player is one of the most accomplished and admired professionals in the game of golf. He is known for his winning ways, his humanitarian legacy, and his unparalleled commitment to fitness. Mr. Player has won 165 worldwide events including 18 Major Championships and is the only player in golf history to win the career Grand Slam on both the regular and seniors tours. He has designed over 300 courses around the globe to critical acclaim and has epitomized what it means to be fit.
Mr. Player is known by many names including the International Ambassador of Golf, The World’s Most Travelled Athlete, Mr. Fitness and the Black Knight. Luckily for us Mr. Player was able to take time out of his busy schedule to conduct a question and answer session with Sports Unbiased. We talked about career accomplishments, humanitarian efforts, friendship and his commitment to fitness. It was an enlightening and motivating question and answer session. Without further adieu I present my question and answer session with Mr. Player in its entirety.
“Mr. Player, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for agreeing to this question and answer session with Sports Unbiased. You truly are one of the greatest of all-time and an International Ambassador of Golf. Our readers should truly enjoy hearing your thoughts and take a number of positives out of this interview. I will do my best to ask you everything I have ever wanted to know in 10 questions although I could ask you questions forever. Thank you again for finding the time.
Over a span of five decades you have 165 tournament victories worldwide, what do you think is more impressive, winning 165 events or playing competitive golf, at a high level, for five decades?
I would certainly say playing golf at a highly competitive level with great success over my career that has now spanned six decades. I hold my Senior Tour Grand Slam in an extremely high regard because not only am I the only golfer thus far to accomplish the Grand Slam on both the PGA Tour and Senior Tour, but the Senior Tour feat had to be accomplished after age 50!
I know winning a Major Championship is always special and your nine PGA Tour Major Championships are incredible. If you were pressed to name the one Major Championship that stood out above the rest which would it be and why?
Each Major Championship is special. I will say that my first Open Championship at Muirfield in 1959 was certainly one of my most memorable as it was my first of nine Major Championships. That victory showed me that I had what it would take to compete with the best golfers around the world, but also that I could break out and win more Majors in my career. It was certainly a confidence builder. The other Major Championship that I consider extremely special was the 1965 U.S. Open when I clinched the Career Grand Slam.
Golf has a very short list when naming players that have won the career Grand Slam. Your name is mentioned alongside Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods as the only players to accomplish that feat, what does that mean to you?
When I won the U.S. Open in 1965, it was such an accomplishment for me. I was only the third person to win all the Major Championships, at the time, and I was only 29. Each one of those names – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods – they are some the game’s greatest. I set out to be the best golfer in the world and worked hard to get there. When I clinched the Grand Slam, golf’s greatest accomplishment, it showed that all my hard work had paid off.
In your opinion, yourself aside, who is the greatest golfer who ever lived? Why would you choose them?
You cannot argue that my friend Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer to ever compete. He was such a fierce competitor and his 18 Major Championships serve as proof. As for the greatest ball striker, I believe that distinction goes to Ben Hogan.
The Player Foundation is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. What made you want to start the foundation and what is the goal of its efforts?
I came from a very humble upbringing, but my parents made sure that I received an excellent education. I vowed that when I had the means I would make it a priority to give back. I consider myself so fortunate that my golfing career has given me the ability to make a difference in the world and give back.
Thirty years ago we started the Blair Atholl School, which was outside of my Johannesburg home at the time, for the underprivileged children in the area that were not receiving a proper education. Since starting the school which remains a success today, The Player Foundation’s efforts now span the world to promote education and aid to underprivileged children and impoverished communities. We have been able to raise $50 million thus far and it my goal to raise over $100 million to ensure that The Foundation continues its aid for years to come.
Up Next: The Interview Continues