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THE BLACK KNIGHT: 81 MILESTONES

Gary Player has won 167 professional golf tournaments worldwide and is one of only five men to capture golf’s coveted career Grand Slam. He won nine Major championships on the PGA Tour and nine Major championships on the Senior Tour and is the only player in history to complete the career Grand Slam on both Tours.

Off the course, Mr. Player has raised more than $62 million for underprivileged children’s education globally through the efforts of The Player Foundation; he has designed nearly 400 golf courses worldwide; he has bred more than 2000 winning racehorses on the Gary Player Stud Farm in South Africa; and in recognition of his achievements in golf as well as his dedication to charity, he has received many awards including the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award and the PGA Tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He currently serves as the Global Ambassador to the World Golf Hall of Fame and has been dubbed the Black Knight, Mr. Fitness, and The World’s Most Traveled Athlete™ having traveled more than 26 million kilometers.

In celebration of the Black Knight’s 81st birthday, we have compiled a list of 81 milestones throughout his life. From the golf course to his racehorse stud farm, Mr. Player continues to live his life to the fullest.

1935 Born to Harry and Muriel Player in Johannesburg, SA – one of three children

1943 Mother, Muriel Player died when Gary Player was 8-years-old, brother Ian went to war at age 17 and gave Gary his first seat of dumbells asking him to promise to exercise and take care of himself if he wanted to be a professional athlete, something he has done all of his life

1949 Received first set of clubs from father, Harry Player and plays first round at Virginia Park Golf Club

1953 Went to King Edward School, won Victor Ludorum best all-around sportsman, turned professional at age 17

1955 Won Egyptian Match Play, the first of 167 professional tournament victories

1956 Won the first of 13 South African Opens – 1956, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981

1957 Married his wife, Vivienne, after she received a telegram proposal announcing a tournament win and they now had enough money to get married.  60 years later, they have six children and 22 grandchildren. 

1957 Won the first of 6 Western Province Opens – 1957, 1959, 1960, 1968, 1971, 1972

1958 Won first PGA TOUR event, the Kentucky Derby Open, 24 total PGA Tour victories

1958 Won the first of seven Australian Opens, which is still a record – 1958, 1962,1963,1965,1969,1970, 1974

1958 Won the first of six Natal Opens – 1958, 1959,1960,1962,1966,1968

1959 Won the Open Championship at Muirfield (1)  – 4 years after sleeping on the beach in 1955 the night before his first Open Championship

1959 Won the first of 12 South African Masters – 1959, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1972 (2), 1974, 1976 (2)

1959 Won the first of five South Africa PGA Championships – 1959, 1960, 1969, 1979, 1982

1959 Won the first of five Transvaal Open Tournaments – 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966

1960 In a silent protest against the apartheid system in South Africa, Gary Player wore black and white pants for the 1960 Open Championship, and later arranged for golfer Lee Elder to play in the South African
PGA Championship for the first integrated sports event in SA since apartheid became official government policy

1961 Won The Masters Tournament, becoming the first international player to do so (2)

1962 Won the PGA Championship at Aronimink GC (3)

1965 Won the U.S. Open at Bellerive CC (4), became third person to achieve the career Grand Slam and is still the only International player to do so

1965 Won the first of three World Cup Tournaments – 1965 (Individual & Team), 1977

1965 Won the first of five World Match Play Tournaments – 1965, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1973

1965 Won the first of three World Series of Golf – 1965, 1968, 1972

1966 Received the Bob Jones Award from the USGA in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf

1968 Won the Open Championship at Carnoustie (5)

1968 Won back-to-back Australian Masters – 1968, 1969

1969 Won the first of two Tournament of Champions – 1969, 1978

1971 Won the first of five General Motors Tournaments – General Motors Open 1971, 1973, 1976, General Motors International 1974, General Motors Classic 1975

1972 Won the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills (6)

1973 Received first of several awards from Metropolitan Golf Writers Association – Gold Tee Award 1973, Family of Year Award 1981, Winnie Palmer Award 2015

1974 Becomes first person ever to shoot 59 in a professional tournament at the 1974 Brazilian Open

1974 Won The Masters Tournament (7)

1974 Won the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes (8)

1974 One of the original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame, now their Global Ambassador

1978 Won The Masters Tournament (9) and would continue to play in as a professional until 2009, setting a record for the most number of Masters played in…..52

1982 Won the Inaugural Skins Game – 1982 and two additional Senior Skins Games – 2000, 2001

1983 Established The Player Foundation to aid underprivileged children and impoverished communities, they have raised more than $62 million

1983 Opened the Blair Atholl school to educate underprivileged children around his Lanseria estate

1985 Won Quadel Senior Classic the first of 19 Champions Tour titles

1986 Won the first of three Nissan Skins Games – 1986, 1988, 1991

1986 Won the first of three Senior PGA Championships – 1986, 1988, 1990

1987 Won the first of two U.S. Senior Open titles when he won by six strokes at Brooklawn CC

1987 Won Tournament Players Championship

1988 Won the Senior Open Championship at Turnberry to complete career Grand Slam on the Senior Tour

1988 Defended his U.S. Senior Open titles when he defeats good friend Bob Charles in an 18-hole playoff at Medinah

1990 Won the Senior Open Championship at Turnberry

1990 Met Nelson Mandela following his release from the Robben Island prison

1993 Won the first of two Bank One Senior Classics – 1993, 1995

1994 Named an Honorary Member of the R & A

1994 Horse from the Player Thoroughbred Stud Farm—Broadway Flyer—competed in the English Derby

1995 Received honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of St. Andrews

1995 Designed Kau Sai Chau, the only public golf course facility in Hong Kong

1997 Inducted into the Captains Club at the Memorial Tournament

1997 Won the Senior Open Championship at Royal Portrush

1997 Won the Shell Wentworth Masters

1998 Became second oldest winner in Champions Tour history at the Northville Long Island Classic at age 62 years, 9 months, 22 days

1998 Became the oldest player to make the cut at The Masters at age 62

1999 Received Honorary Doctorate in Law, University of Dundee, Scotland

1999 Established the Nelson Mandela Invitational to raise funds for underprivileged children

2000 Named South African Sportsman of the Century

2000 Named the winner of the PGA TOUR’s Ambassador of Golf Award

2003 First of three Captaincy of Presidents Cup International Team – 2003, 2005, 2006. An unprecedented tie announced with Jack Nicklaus at the 2003 Presidents Cup at Fancourt

2003 Received Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication to charity

2003 Awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (in gold for exceptional achievement) by President Mbeki of South Africa for excellence in golf and contribution to non-racial sport in South Africa

2003 Celebrated his 50th year as a professional

2004 Performs induction speech for Charlie Sifford at the World Golf Hall of Fame

2005 Received Golf Course Builders Association of America “Don A. Rossi” Award

2006 Received the Payne Stewart Award from the PGA Tour in recognition of philanthropic achievements and the exemplary manner in which he has conducted himself on and off the golf course

2006 Received KPMG Golf Business Forum Lifetime Achievement Award

2007 Won the ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award from the Golf Writers Associaton of America for his cooperation, quotability and accommodation to the media

2009 Bettered his age (73) three times in an event when he did so at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai

2010 Won pro tournament in seventh consecutive decade, the second of back-to-back Legends of Golf Tournaments – 2009, 2010

2010 Received Asia Pacific Golf Summit Lifetime Achievement Award

2011 Inducted into the Asia Pacific Golf Hall of Fame

2012 Became the 10th recipient and first international winner of the PGA Tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award when he was honored at THE PLAYERS Championship

2012 Joined Arnold Palmer & Jack Nicklaus as official starters at Augusta National, reuniting the “Big Three” which was coined by Marc McCormack in the mid 1960s

2013 The oldest athlete chosen to appear nude in the ESPN’s The Body Issue

2015 Named Captain for the 2016 Summer Olympic South Africa Men’s Golf Team

2015 Continues to travel even as he approaches 80 years of age.  The World’s Most Traveleled Athlete with more than 26 Million KM and counting

2015 Designer of 400 golf courses on 5 continents, including his self-sustaining, environmentally friends golf course on his farm.  He is recognized as a leader in designing sustainable and environmentally friendly golf courses as a tribute to his brother Dr. Ian Player, one of the world’s leading conservationists who passed away in 2014 and is recognized for his efforts in saving the white rhino

2015 Resides on his thoroughbred racehorse stud farm in the Great Karoo of South Africa where he has bred more than 2000 winners.  Gave the keynote address at the Thoroughbred Owners Conference in Kentucky in 2014 where he was recognized for his dedication to the industry

2016 Gary Player captained the South African Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He logged nearly 400,000 air kilometers traveling the world spreading the game of golf.

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Laughter is the best medicine and when I’m around Lee, there is never a shortage of laughter.

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Excited to watch the @usopengolf at Winged Foot this weekend, sending my best wishes to those competing. Here’s a little throwback from my 1965 #USOpen playoff victory which saw me capture the Grand Slam.

The fist pump – is there a more universal celebration in sport? Some new artwork that I love!

My commitment to fitness was essential to my success and has allowed me to enjoy the game that has given me so much. I find joy in seeing guys like @McIlroyRory & @TigerWoods who have turned themselves into great athletes in order to be better competitors. https://t.co/sSGBaosdNE

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