Gary Player, Renee Powell, Mickey Wright and Lew Worsham, a foursome that impacted American and global golf, lead a class of seven inductees to be enshrined in the PGA of America Hall of Fame.
The 2017 class, to be honored Nov. 2, at the PGA’s 101st Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, also features 2012 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Michael Schultz of Tequesta, Florida; Joe Tesori of Dewitt, New York; and the late visionary golf administrator George Henry Schneiter, formerly of Salt Lake City.
“The PGA of America takes great pride in welcoming this exceptional class into the PGA Hall of Fame. They represent some of the most significant contributors to our Association and to the game of golf,” said PGA of America President Paul Levy. “This class captured many of the prize jewels of our sport; stood strong against social injustice; inspired junior players and future professionals; gave hope to military Veterans; and whose on-course success left an indelible mark in our sport. Their names will be inscribed among those who have made golf the greatest game.”
Honorary PGA Member
Achieving the unprecedented is part of the golfing tapestry of Gary Player’s career. The most traveled golfer at more than 26 million kilometers (over 16 million miles), Player wanted to be the winningest global performer. He went on win in 15 countries in 27 consecutive years, and won 168 professional events worldwide. In 1965, at age 29, he became the third to complete golf’s career Grand Slam. Today, he is one of only five to do so. With nine major championships on the PGA Tour and nine majors on the PGA Tour Champions, Player was the first player to complete the Grand Slam on both tours.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Player’s older brother, Ian, went to serve in World War II, and fight alongside the Americans. Before he departed, Ian asked his younger brother what he wanted to do with his life. Young Gary, then about nine years old, said that he wanted to be a sportsman, but didn’t know exactly what sport. He promised Ian that he would exercise religiously and justifiably earned the nickname “Mr. Fitness” for a physical regimen that enabled him to handle the rigors of international competition. Player turned professional in 1953, and joined the PGA Tour in 1957.
As committed as Player has been to be one of golf’s premier athletes, he was equally committed to work behind-the-scenes to improve racial discrimination in his native homeland, which for most of his life existed under the shroud of apartheid. The Player family established The Player Foundation to promote education among his country’s underprivileged. The foundation built the Blair Atholl Schools in Johannesburg, which has educational facilities for more than 500 students. The Player Foundation has raised more than $63 million for underprivileged children globally, through the efforts of Black Knight International and the Gary Player Invitational series in South Africa, China, the United States; United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Japan. Player has designed nearly 400 golf courses worldwide and has raised more than 2,000 winning racehorses on the Gary Player Stud Farm in the Great Karoo of South Africa.
In recognition of his achievements in golf and dedication to charity, Player has received numerous awards that include the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award from Nelson Mandela and the PGA Tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a member of the inaugural World Golf Hall of Fame class in 1974, and is the Hall’s Global Ambassador. In 2016, Player captained the South African Olympic Golf Team in Rio de Janeiro, in golf’s return to the Summer Games.
IN HIS OWN WORDS: “I’m honored to be named to the PGA Hall of Fame and to join some of the most prestigious names in golf history. I was honored to have won the PGA Championship at Aronimink (1962) and Oakland Hills (1972), and the Senior PGA Championship (now KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship) in 1986, 1988 and 1990. The PGA’s effort to elevate the standard of the profession and to grow interest in the game is so important. Of course, I would really love to see the PGA Championship taken around the world.
I’m very grateful for what occurs in my life on a daily basis. I’m very happy in life and I’ve made so many great friends all over the world. I’ve always wanted to have the best global record. I’ve won in 15 different countries and traveled to beat the best players. Traveling is better than any college degree. I’ve experienced so many cultures, languages, religions and peoples. To experience so many interesting parts of the world is something you cannot obtain at even Harvard or Oxford University.
My desire has always been to leave the world a better place. It is easier to be get a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get people to exercise or eat properly. My wife, Vivienne, always says I’m a bit of a bore. She says, ‘People don’t want to hear about eating properly and exercising. They don’t want it and just won’t do it.’ So, I have to try communicating my message diplomatically.”