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STILL FULL OF FIRE

Gary Player celebrated his recent 80th birthday with a party for 300 guests at the Sun City SuperBowl.

The event was the culmination of many celebrations held this past year in his honour, and Gary literally bounced into the arena to a thunderous burst of razzmatazz as the guests awaited his arrival, and remained full of energy the entire night, singing the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire” on the stage with Irish vocalists Ronan Keating and Brian McFadden, and later in the evening sweeping up in his arms the female violinist member of the band Freshlyground.

Not many 50-year-olds would have been as ebullient or engaging as Gary was for hours on end. He’s just so full of “go.” He went to bed after midnight, and bright and early the next morning I bumped into him, chirpy and smiling, in the lobby of the Palace of the Lost City, heading off to the golf course to tee up with clients. He looked the very opposite of how a partygoer is meant to look the next day.

It was a memorable occasion for Gary and wife Vivienne mostly for the fact that the entire Player family, 37 of them from around the world, barring three grandchildren who had school exams, were there to celebrate with him. His two sons, Marc and Wayne, daughters Amanda, Jennifer, Michele and Theresa, plus 19 grandchildren were there alongside old family friends, including Johann and Gaynor Rupert, who sat next to Gary and Vivienne, and prominent member of the local golf industry. The party was held by The Friends of Gary Player, and they made sure his favourite songs were played throughout the evening. Idols judge and Metro FM radio presenter Unathi Msengana was the MC.

The celebrations were followed by the 16th annual Gary Player Invitational tournament at Lost City, and showing typical competitiveness and a wonderful sense of occasion, Gary retained his title in the Alliance format 36-hole event. His first victory as an octogenarian, which mean he maintains achievement of having won a professional title in every decade of his life since his teenage years. His team of Keating and businessmen Dr. Han-Walter Peters and Sello Moloko shot 36-under-par to win by 11 strokes. Africa’s premier charity golf tournament raised a record R6.2 million for charities supports underprivileged children in South Africa.

Afterwards, Gary said it was the best week of his life. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

Article courtesy of Golf Digest South Africa

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