“The act of charity really begins in the heart.” ~ Gary Player
While walking up to the final hole at the 1962 U.S. Open Championship, Gary turned to Joe Dey, and then director of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and with disappointment said, “Had I won, Joe, I planned on giving the prize money to charity. But let’s keep that a secret. One day I shall win, and turn back the money to a good cause. That is a promise.”
That promise was fulfilled three years later at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, after an 18-hole playoff with Australian Kel Nagle. Upon being handed the winner’s check, Gary handed it back to Joe Dey specifying that the proceeds should go to cancer research and the development of junior golf programs by the USGA. “There is enormous satisfaction that can be derived from giving something back to the world in moments of success,” says Gary.
In 1983, professional golfer, Gary Player along with his family, created his eponymous namesake foundation originally to address the education crisis in his home country of South Africa. The Player family soon realized the need for quality education far extended the countryside of Johannesburg, to numerous countries around the world. What began as a small local vision, developed into a goal to provide for less fortunate children globally.
Highlights of the Next 30 Years
From a winner’s purse to the staging of global events, The Player Foundation has come a long way. Since 1983 The Player Foundation has expanded its scope and aligned its work to also strengthen impoverished communities. Having raised more than $60 million USD, we have been able to make a global impact.
Over the last 29 years The Player Foundation has supported schools in Colesburg, South Africa, to orphaned children in Tamil Nadu, India, to Pleasant City Elementary in West Palm Beach, Florida, and back to Mr. Player’s home country of South Africa in the township of Khayletsha.
Today, the Blair Atholl School is self-sufficient with a matriculation of more than 500 students. In addition to the education efforts, The Player Foundation provides a feeding scheme, medical and dental care, transport services, adult education and training, and a number of recreational facilities. It is the school’s policy that education moves beyond the four walls of the classroom and therefore the school provides a variety of activities in which the students can participate. These include sport activities, choir, violin, and piano. The school has partnered with The World of Golf in Johannesburg to encourage and allow students to learn the game of golf. Students are able to take lessons, play on a regular basis and take annual trips to The World of Golf headquarters.
The mission of Christel House - to help children around the world break the cycle of poverty and become self-sufficient, contributing members of society - aligns itself nicely with The Player Foundation.
On June 14, 2004, golfers at twenty courses; located in eleven countries on five different continents and spanning twenty time zones; participated in the Christel House Open. Play commenced with the morning tee-off in India and concluded as the last ball was putt into the 18th hole before sunset in Hawaii.
The winning foursome from each site qualified to compete in the new World Championship event, held August 30-31, 2004, at The Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, California - a course designed by tournament host Gary Player.
Pleasant City Elementary
In 2005, The Player Foundation adopted this school. Whilst only footsteps away from the affluent Palm Beach area, Pleasant City - the oldest African American community in Palm Beach County - located in the heart of West Palm Beach, is known for its drugs, violence and crime. The school was established to provide a safe haven and quality educational foundation for children of this community. The school was selected due to the history of the area, the true dedication of the school’s staff to reunite the once flourishing community, and the similarities in needs with the Blair Atholl School located in South Africa.
The Chinese Foundation for the Prevention of STD A.I.D.S.:
Baoshan city in Yunnan province is located near the China-Burma border and it has become one of the drug traffic routes of the Gold Triangle. Due to the close proximity to Dehong city, a high AIDS epidemic area, there is a large population of mainline doping and sex workers, resulting in the prevalence of an AIDS epidemic.
In recent years, the AIDS epidemic has become more and more serious and widespread, and the situation continues to deteriorate year by year. As a result of the increase of infection and death of HIV patients, the number of orphaned children has grown dramatically.
The Gary Player Invitational in China presented by Coca-Cola has selected this organization as its beneficiary. The rampant spread and affect of A.I.D.S. on the children in China, along with the national support of the organization, made this a good fit for the Foundation.
“My years in golf have taught me a fundamental truth. Life is enriched by passionate pursuits. In my mind, the best passions are those that last a lifetime.” ~ Gary Player
From Silver Anniversary to Golden Celebrations, The Player Foundation looks to grow its events and expand upon its current global strategy. The goal of raising $100 million may sound lofty; however, as our events develop and others catch the Player family’s vision to strengthen impoverished areas and bring hope to those living in abject poverty, it is attainable.
The perpetuity of The Player Foundation also remains a focus. The cry of the poor will always be with us, but Gary will not. His wish is that what he and his family started with The Player Foundation will continue to accomplish even greater things. With a legacy that spans a quarter of a century The Player Foundation’s spirit of generosity will continue to manifest in humanitarian efforts throughout the world.