Gary Player knows a good swing when he sees one. A 9-time major champion including the career Grand Slam (winning all 4 major championships); Gary is the only professional golfer to win the senior career Grand Slam as well. He recorded 168 professional wins all over the world with a bulk of those victories coming in 27 consecutive years.
Mr. Player’s love of fitness and nutrition has been a life choice, so to speak. He’s well known for his clean eating and won’t touch refined sugars or carbs. He recalls he was known as the “nut” when he first talked about healthy eating and started using weights back in his training sessions 65 years ago. “Honestly, they ridiculed me.” He recollects. “Even now some media presenters are talking a whole lot of hogwash about weight training. In my opinion Tiger played his best golf when he was fit and lifting weights.
Rory and Dustin are also working hard in the gym. However, working hard in the gym is only one portion of staying healthy, you need to eat properly. If you don’t work out in the gym or eat properly you can still beat these guys but you won’t last – you won’t have longevity in the game. I will give you a good example – Jack Nicklaus won major championships for 25 years, I won for 20 years and Arnold Palmer for only 6 years. Arnold was strong, a very strong man. But Arnold liked his cigarettes -he liked his drinking and he ate like crap and that had an effect on him and his life as he got older. The conversation then shifts to Player opining that it’s difficult to get people to eat properly. He believes most people eat well, but need to start eating properly and there stands the vast difference. Properly versus well. We as a society need to educate our children on the benefits of eating right, cut out the fast food and really eat right. Here’s a scary thought” he adds “A hundred million Americans will have diabetes in 40 years time”.
We shared our thoughts on the roll that corporate America and the broader global community needs to play to make any significant changes to the way we produce food, and the additives they add to either expedite production times or add to shelf life.
Player’s message reaches far and wide with speaking engagements all over the world. But his concern for the future deepens when he visits the Universities across America. “The greatest country in the world and 90 percent of students are drinkers or smokers, this really, really, concerns me, this is the future of this phenomenal country,” he remarks. He does however understand that in today’s world it is getting harder to stay healthy. “You need to eat organic, non-processed food and you need to exercise like crazy, that’s the only chance you have.” Gary has traveled all over the world and experienced many types of cuisines and thinks Asia is way ahead of the US in terms of healthy clean eating. He thinks we could all learn from the way they eat. Less white bread, more salads and vegetables. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Mr. Player’s achievements on the golf course are well documented. However, this was not the only sport that he had natural talents in. Back in his school years he received full honors in rugby, cricket and half honors in hurdles and spring board diving. He also enjoys breeding thoroughbred racehorses (on the very successful Gary Player Stud Farm) and playing tennis.
We chatted enthusiastically about our love for the game of tennis and on the recent Wimbledon win for Roger Federer. “Roger is phenomenal. What a body he has! He will win well into his 40s he is that good. He is fit both physically and mentally he is strong. People say he is old. He is a young strong man who will continue to win.” This point of the conversation then sparks him to reminisce back to a time when he was on the senior tour at age 50. “I was as fit as a 35-year-old and mentally strong. I was the only one to win the grand slam on the regular tour and the senior tour. Nicklaus tried, Palmer tried, Trevino – they all tried, and I was the only one to do it. That was more of an achievement than winning the grand slam on the regular tour.” I can hear the sheer delight in his voice as he tells me, if not a little smirk too. His prediction for the next senior grand slam will be achieved by Bernard Langer. “Bernard is playing great golf and he is fit, lean and mean! I love the guy, love him!” he says heartily.
We move on to discuss the importance of the family dinner. For me the family dinner is one of the great platforms to learn how to communicate and show respect; a time to be grateful for the food we are eating and the company of our family; a time to reflect on the day’s happenings. Player agrees with me and then goes on to tell me “the one thing I’m very proud of is all my children have very good manners. They take their hat off when they talk to you, they look you in the eyes, they stand when a lady comes into a room. As someone once said, manners maketh the man.”
Family will always come first for Mr. Player. He recently had a family vacation with 40 family members in Thailand, and the year before they all went to Greece. “Every year I try to take all my family, a mixture of all races and colors, to some place around the world to continue family values and tradition.”
Mr. Player is and will be remembered as much for his stellar golf career as he will for his achievements off the course. No one has promoted the game of golf, no one has given back to his local communities in South Africa, and no one has been a better ambassador for educating our children to live a healthy life style as Mr. Gary Player. His energy for life is contagious, his passion for education unparalleled, and his relentless endeavor to create a better quality of life for generations to come is nothing short of inspiring.