Three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Gary Player was reunited with the famous Claret Jug trophy today on a surprise visit to St Philip’s Church of England Primary School in Southport.
Fifteen-hundred schoolchildren from five schools in Sefton will come face-to-face with one of the most iconic trophies in sport this week and for the pupils of St Philip’s, the experience included the opportunity to talk with an Open Champion.
Gary Player practised harder, travelled farther and was more meticulous about his diet and fitness than any other golfer of his generation.
He started playing golf aged 14 and turned professional three years later, embarking on a career that required him to spend many weeks a year away from his home in South Africa. His enthusiasm for his sport led him to win over 160 tournaments over six decades. He has also played in The Open a record 46 times and record 52 times in the Masters.
Gary Player said, “The Open is such an historic sporting event and it is important to help tell its wonderful story to future generations. I have many special memories of The Open and I am always proud to come back to the United Kingdom and share those memories.
“I am passionate about golf and education and it was a real pleasure to spend time with the pupils at St Philip’s. Sport and golf can have such a positive impact on young players’ lives and their future aspirations and I was thrilled to see the magic of The Open and the Claret Jug captivate our young audience at the school. Who knows, we may even have inspired a future Champion Golfer of the Year.”
Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said: “Gary Player secured his place in the history of The Open with his three victories and is an inspiration to millions of golfers of all ages around the world. We are delighted that he has been able to join the pupils at St Philip’s today to tell them about his experiences of winning one of the world’s great sporting events.”
Among nine Major championship victories, Gary Player won The Open to become Champion Golfer of the Year on three occasions, spanning three decades: at Muirfield (1959), Carnoustie (1968) and Royal Lytham & St Annes (1974). In addition, he has won nine Majors on the Senior Tour, including The Senior Open a record three times.
He also has a strong commitment to promoting education. In 1983, The Player Foundation was established to provide quality education, nutrition, medical care and extra-curricular activities to the less fortunate children living in rural areas of South Africa.
Today, through several annual events staged in the USA, Asia, Europe and South Africa, his foundation has raised more than US$62 million for impoverished children globally.
This year marks the 21st anniversary of The Open’s Kids Go Free policy, which began at Royal Troon in 1997. Children under the age of 16 are admitted free of charge to the Championship and discounted tickets are available for youths aged 16-24.