When I met Gary 7times
By Rumen TODOROV, Bulgaria
November 9, 2004, “St. Sofia” Golf Course, Bulgaria, 4.00 pm
Gary Player is giving us a golf clinic. He takes a club from his bag and examines it. “Made in China”, says Gary Player. “Whatever club you are playing with, whatever is written on it, its Chinese nevertheless”, he continues, “I don’t think anyone is manufacturing clubs in the USA anymore. If you are a very good golfer, there is no real matter what club you are playing with”. And he shoots. The ball flies for 220 yards.
Then he takes another club. And he does the same shot.
“I can do the same shot with each club from the bag. And I can hit all kinds of shots with any club”, says Player, “I can play against all of you with a single club and still beat you”.
The legendary golfer takes another club and repeats the last shot’s trajectory.
“It’s good for the spine, joints and musculature to hit shots with the other hand, too”, Gary Player advices us. He takes a club with his left hand leading, swings, and the ball is once again flying 220 yards away.
Then the legendary golfer takes a club with a lead weight around the shaft. The special club is weighting 10 times the normal. Gary Player hits another shot. The ball files over 110 yards.
About 50 people just stand in awe, speechless.
“My physique is not very powerful, but I am very tough”, said Gary Player, “I do 1000 sit-ups a day. In my life I’ve hit over a million balls. My grip is also very strong for my shot to be precise. I bet all the money in my wallet – around 500 USD – with any of you, who can hold the club horizontally by the grip (the shaft) with two fingers”. And Gary Player throws his wallet on the ground.
8.00 pm, in Slavi’s Show by Bulgarian television bTV
/This is the same bet that Gray Player makes in the evening in the popular TV broadcast “The Slavi’s Show”. Slavi Trifonov, the show’s lead, is an avid fitness practitioner. Gary Player says that Slavi’s hand is as strong as Michael Jordan’s. The lead clenches his hand, palm, and fingers. Still, Slavi is not able to hold the club at half – at about 45 degrees. And Slavi Trifonov doesn’t win the 500 USD. /
Gary Player puts the end of the club between his middle and index fingers and holds it horizontally almost perpendicularly from the ground. We watch this both on the golf course and on live in bTV Slavi’show room. To us this is something impossible. To Gary Player this is part of the Game of Golf.
I gift him with a drawing from the famous Bulgarian artist Boris Dimovski – a shepherd hits a ball with his crook, while the sheep approve his shot in a hole. We shake hands. I feel like should Gary Player decides to clutch my hand a little harder, my knuckles will crackle. Gary Player has a steel grasp, indeed.
August 1, 2006, BlackSeaRama Golf Course, Bulgaria
The BlackSeaRama Golf Course is Gary Player’s first signature course in Bulgaria. Several of the holes are ready. The legendary golfer has come to see how the course’s construction is going on. The wind is strong, over 80 mph – strong enough to send the heavy metal chairs in the pool. If we open our jackets, we will also fly into the sea. Gary Player stands on the tee. The wind is wild and side/head. Gary Player makes a shot with his 1 wood driver.
The ball flies as if there was no wind at all. And balls at around 13 feet to the pin. Then follows another shot, which seems to stick the ball to the green. The third ball falls next to the other two. A little late for the golf demonstration, the Bulgarian Minister of Regional Development and Public Works comes to watch Gary Player’s shots. Player repeats the show. He takes new balls. And they fly right for the green. The fourth ball falls once again 13-14 feet from the pin and stops with a strong backspin. So does the fifth. It is as we are watching shots from another dimension and planet.
Gary Player’s shots overcome wind and gravity alike.
August 1, 2007
July 13, 2008
BlackSeaRama and Thracian Cliff Golf Courses, Bulgaria
A group of students at 12-15 years from the Donchevo village, near the town of Dobrich, have come to see the legendary golfer Gary Player. They are practicing golf at the “Victor” Youth Golf Club at Golf Club Varna’s Driving Range.
Gary Player has walked around the two golf courses during the day and has given his directions for the future work on site. Everyone in the group is tired from the 10-20 miles they have walked on foot. Gary Player seems the most fresh. He shows the local students how to improve their swings. Gary Player is very fond of children with a darker skin tone. They all take photos with him. He gives them autographs.
“I had a tough childhood”, said Gary Player, “I grew up half-orphan in a poor Johannesburg family. My mother passed away when I was 8. Dad worked in a mine. But I was doing sports. And I became the best golfer in the world. If you keep practicing, one day you can also become the best in the world, no matter where you come from. The future is yours. And you are the future.” Gary Player is personally aiding disadvantaged children in South Africa, Asia, Europe, and the USA. Thanks to him, 500 children receive food and education in Johannesburg.
July 18, 2009, BlackSeaRama Golf Course Opening, Bulgaria
Gary Player drives the first shot at the official opening of his first signature course in Bulgaria. Next follows the auction for the driver he used for the shot. The club is won by a golfer, who has offered 5000 USD for it. The money goes for charity. Ten televisions are following the legendary golf star’s every movement and word.
“I am travelling all over the world”, says the planet’s golf ambassador Gary Player, “I may be the world’s most travelling creature in the last 50 years. I’ve travelled more than 13 million miles. The golf charity is over 1 billion US dollars”. In 2003, Gary Player was awarded the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication to charity. His Gary Player Foundation has donated more than 25 million US dollars. The legendary golfer is organizing his Gary Player Invitational tourneys in Europe, the USA, China, Abu Dhabi, and South Africa. The great actor Jackie Chan was a guest of the charity tournament, organized by Player in Shanghai. Other stars, playing with Player, are Jane Zhang, piano player Lang Lang, J.J.Lin, Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Liu Xiang, Zhang Zilin, Liang Weng Chong, Wu Ashun, Tang Xiao, Jacky Cheung-Hok-Yan, etc. His charity tournaments in 2007, 2009, and 2010 in China collected over 22 million RMB. These funds are used to help over 2000 orphans and HIV-infected in Yunnan, Anhui, and Xinjiang.
July 4, 2011, Thracian Cliffs Golf Course Opening, Bulgaria
“I am 75 now, but I keep working 8 hours-a-day”, says Gary Player, “Yesterday I did 1000 sit-ups again. Many people at my age have already given up on their physique. I am also working on my golf technique and concentration. I won a tourney a year ago. What is good about golf is that you play it all your life. This is also keeping you up. In football and other sports you are finished, once you turn 33. In golf, you go on. More and more people are entering golf. The notion that golf is just for the rich, is something from the past now. Until recently it wasn’t a popular sport in China. Now, the number of golf players in China is growing. Their numbers are growing in India, as well. It is good that golf is once again an Olympic sport. However, in order to have a success in golf, no matter where, you need a local golf star that has a world-wide fame, like Hristo Stoichkov, from Barcelona. Many children and students will take interest in golf, if such a star is present, and will want to be famous like Tiger Woods. In this way golf may become more and more popular in any country.”
What can I add after my 6-7 meetings with Gary Player?
Some memories from 22 years ago.
Sun City, Republic of South Africa
My guide, named Spiro, leader of the largest Orthodox community in Johannesburg with 5000 members at the time, says to me: “This is the course where golfers are playing for the first time to win the largest first place prize ever – 1 million dollars, provided by Nedbank /Nedbank Golf – Million Dollar Challenge/. This is where the world famous Gary Player is playing, too. The course is his design. Gary Player is very famous both here and around the world. He is a great pride to South Africa. He is a great athlete and a person. Everyone loves him. He is like an icon in South Africa.”
This is the first time I’ve ever heard the name Gary Player. I don’t say anything. Gary Player Country Club speaks nothing to me. Out of respect to my host and the place, I go and touch the course’s grass. And I think: “This Gary should be a great player, indeed, since he was nicknamed The Player.” Years later I found out that Gary Player is his name. And that Gary Player is a great player with a noble soul. He is a Knight at Heart.
The Gary Player Foundation was founded in 1983. So far, it has gathered many million USD for charity. Its purpose is to reach 100 million dollars for charity and to support children in need, even after Gary Player is no longer alive.
THIS IS GARY PLAYER! The Black Knight!
A Big Heart and Spirit Athlete.
There are no physical or age limits for champions and knights in the Great Game of Golf.
And Earth is the ball, over which Gary Player has been flying for more than 13 million miles to spread Love of The Game to Everyone!
Gary Player is the living golf legend and the living champion school for Strength and Spirit.
A Great Knight at Game and Heart! Gary! The Major PLAYER!
Photograph /from contributors’ page of Chinese golf and vacation magazine/:
Gary Player and Rumen Todorov after Thracian Cliffs’golf course opening, July 4th, 2011, Bulgaria