Gary Player had just walked off the green after a practice round with Sir Kenny Dalglish ahead of the Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola when he was asked to define some of the qualities needed to become a champion.
“Something called IT,” said the Black Knight. “Whatever IT is. Who knows? But you’ve got to have IT.”
This something that not even the only man on the planet to win the Grand Slam of Majors on both the regular and senior tours can define will resonate around Sun City this week, having captured the attention of global superstars in sport, entertainment and business who have come to support the drive for #GolfandGiving in South Africa.
IT is what has propelled Gary Player to take his superlative career in golf and work tirelessly to better it as a philanthropist, raising more than $64 million for disadvantaged communities worldwide through The Player Foundation.
And IT is what Sir Kenny Dalglish, Annika Sorenstam, Graeme Smith, Brian Lara, Aaron Mokoena, Owen Nkumane, Ian Woosnam, Brian McFadden and so many others have come to be a part of at The Lost City Golf Course this week.
“He is just an incredible person and I respect him so much for who he is and what he does for charity. It really is an incredible honor for me to be part of this charity series and to help in any way I can,” said Sorenstam.
Former Springbok rugby player, Owen Nkumane said he could only stand in awe of what South Africa’s Sportsman of the Century has done for charity through this series.
“We talk of Gary Player’s legacy now, but I don’t think we have hit the apex of what his legacy will truly be. I think that only when Gary Player is no longer with us will we truly realize how much he has contributed. It’s phenomenal.”
For Gary Player, it is far easier to define the outcome of what he has spent a lifetime contributing to, than the driving force within him.
“What I so love about the GPI Series is that wherever we are in the world you can see the result of what we have done. You can see a school that we have built, a centre for special needs children, a village that does not have a single piece of rubbish in it because of a waste collection programme we have there through Wildlands, or a child whose life was saved because of the support we give Wings and Wishes through this tournament.
“To then have all of these incredible people be a part of this journey with me and give of their valuable time and talent to support us, as well as our loyal sponsors of so many years – that gives me a tremendous sense of gratitude.”
So what is IT?
“I really don’t know. It’s like a puzzle without an answer. Perhaps it’s a divine gift,” says Gary Player.
This weekend, it’s a gift that has drawn a family of like-minded stars to join Gary Player, and keep on giving.