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whenimetgary

South Africa’s most successful sportsman, Grand Slam Champion and philanthropist. Gary Player has touched the lives of so many, and we want to show him all the lives he´s changed. Share your story of when you met the Black Knight.

When I met Gary Player

I was in the gallery at the Queensland Open at Royal Queensland GC in about 1984 when Gary played the greatest shot I have ever witnessed: a four-wood draw from a high-lipped fairway bunker to a protected green over 200 metres away. Later in that round he was accosted by flies as he attempted to settle for a tee shot. He stepped back and I waited for a curse. Instead he chuckled: “These flies are quite a challenge, aren’t they?” I learned something about a positive attitude that day.
I like to think that it helped when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995. Today, 20 years on and thanks to the skill of a Sydney-based DBS surgical team, I am free of major symptoms and take no medication.
Happy birthday, Gary, and best wishes for the future
Patrick Ahern

When I met Gary Player

I actually met Gary when I observed him interact with a 15 year old fan at a Pro Am in Concord Mass. in 2000. He had just hit his tee shot on a par three and this young man asked him for his autograph. Gary had the young man jump on the back of his cart ant accompany him for the hole. He signed the kids autograph addressing it to both the young man and his mom. After the hole was finished that boy was ecstatic! While I did not personally meet the man it certainly formed a lifelong memory and respect for Gary Player! Happy Birthday Gary!

When I met Gary Player

Shalom Gary from the Miracle Holy Land :) – 1 November 2015

Heartiest congratulations on becoming an octogenarian :)
– at the same time also on your unique,magnificent career/legacy not just as without doubt the greatest international,across-the-globe golfer of all time(165 victories) but as importantly
as supreme gentleman,remarkable statesman/roving ambassador of SA,health & fitness role model,philanthropist especially for the underprivileged,devoted husband/father/family man etc,etc,etc..
I met you briefly in 1959 or 1960 as a shy kid ( 7 yrs old)with my late dad( Charles Croock of blessed memory) whilst attending a tournament at Parkhurst/Greenside Golf course – you won I believe:) -Soccer has been my lifelong passion( forever connected to Highlands Park FC which I clearly recall you had a liking for, & Arsenal FC),but I have also been a lifelong close follower of pro golf ,especially your career/other SA golfing heroes.Nothing thrilled me more than to see you beat Nicklaus/Palmer/Trevino & company over the yrs(regular & senior tours), but your grace & composure at occasional defeats by any of this trio was only surpassed by my upset/frustration at your losing:)

I am a Physician/Rheumatologist ( ‘retired of sorts’) ,my wife is Israeli,we have 3 wonderful sons,raised in Houston TX for 24 yrs before moving to Israel 2 yrs ago(one son & wife live in Miami) . We would be so honored,thrilled & excited if you ever visit Israel to contact us- :):
Only 1 18-hole golf course in Israel,located in Caesaria,apparently beautiful: , just staged its first international pro tournament :)

Wising you,your amazing wife Vivian//family best of health,joy & happiness,-
May your next 80 yrs be as healthy,exhilarating, & successful G-d willing :)
Most sincerely/with great affection & deepest thanks for all the scintillating memories.

Photo – Our arrival in Israel with canine daughter Annie(Golden Doodle) Aug 2013.
We are huge animal lovers/ miss Kruger Park so,so much :):)

Gary – I clearly recall another special “Gary Player moment’ you will no doubt appreciate –
On arrival (with my wife & 3 young boys) in Charleston SC,USA in July 1985 to take up a 2-year Fellowship post at the Medical University of S.Carolina,we stayed at the Charleston Inn where we met the owner/manager(regret no recall of his name) who owned a boat on the nearby Ashley River.
On hearing my SA accent,he proudly stated it reminded him of his special meeting with Gary Player,”such a fine gentleman,amazing golfer & ambassador for SA”, whereupon he proceeded to give us a special reduced weekly rate on a large family room until we found a home to rent some 5-6 weeks later!

Thanks ++ again Gary for all the magical memories(& influence:):) to be treasured forever !

Alan
Dr.Alan & Chagit Croock

When I met Gary Player

I first meet Gary the year he tied with Miller Barber and Arnold Palmer playing in the Pensacola Open. Papers always talked about “Arnie’s Army”, so the day of the play off I wore a sign on my back “Gary’s Gang”. Gary won the play off. In 1965 I wore the sign again in St. Louis, for the “Open” and he won again. Gary Happy Birthday and many more. You are a great model for the young children now as you were for mine some time ago.

When I met Gary Player

Happy birthday Gary! I met Gary in South Africa when I was working for The Coca-Cola Company. I was attending the Nelson Mandela Gary Player charity golf tournament when I had my first introduction to Mr. Player. Obviously I felt so fortunate to meet a man with such an incredible golf career, but I was more take back by Gary’s incredible heart. He goes out to everyone to help, inspire or just share a story. My family have been blessed to know Gary and had the opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner with him at the Palace Hotel in Sun City one year. It was during this dinner that Gary told us how he thanked God not just on Thanksgiving but every day – at least 10 times a day. He said he felt blessed for his life and to him every day was Christmas and every night was Thanksgiving. Anyone who has had the privilege of meeting Gary knows that they too have been blessed because he carries such a wonderful spirit of the Lord with him. Happy birthday Gary and may God bless you forever and ever.
David Lyons

When I met Gary Player

I just want to say that when I won the Senior Open at Royal Birkdale in 2013, I received a voice mail from Gary,who was in Germany, congratulating me on the victory. That message meant so much to me and if I could put it on display next to my Senior Claret Jug, that would be the ultimate. It’s not every day that you receive a message like that from the Black Night, It’s something I will always cherish. So my message to you Gary, have the grandest of birthdays on this, your 80th. We are all so grateful for everything you have done and stood for in this unbelievable game. You are the youngest 80 year old I have every seen. All the best Gary. Cheers to you
Mark Wiebe

When I met Gary Player

When I met Gary 7times

By Rumen TODOROV, Bulgaria

1st meeting
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.

2nd
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.

3rd
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.

4th
August 1, 2007

5th
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.

6th
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.

7th
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.

May, 1993
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

When I met Gary Player

When I met Gary, I was on a holiday to his Home land of South Africa with my grandparents. My Grandparents are good friends of Gary and his wife Vivienne as they have done a lot of business together. On my first day of the holiday immediately after my long 11 hour flight all alone, being only 13 years old at the time, I was told that we would visit Gary at his stud farm in colesburg South Africa. When I arrived Gary picked us up from a small airfield himself and drove us back to the farm where he gave us a tour of his beautiful home and farm. We met many of his gorgeous horses and saw some zebras on there travels. After the tour he took us up to one of his unique golf holes that he had designed, a beautiful hilltop tee off that travels down a hill and on to the green. He gave me a lesson and some tips that I still use to improve my game today, he even gave my grandparents a few pointers my grandfather certainly needed them. It was then that Gary asked us for suggestions for the name of the hole where my grandmother had the idea of Fergus Point. ( because of the fact that we are Scottish and Gary has ancestors from Scotland) .

Later that evening we all had dinner where we had the best lamb I have ever tasted in my life. It was at dinner that I was able to learn so many things about Gary and his success in the horse business obviously golf but also as an icon in his nation.

Gary in those two days taught me some incredible thing me that will live with me until I die. I hope to see Gary again soon and hope that he has an incredible birthday.

Max Doyle, Edinburgh, Scotland. Sixteen years old.

When I met Gary Player

I first met Gary in 2011 when he and Marc Player commissioned Christie’s to compile an inventory of his extraordinary collection of medals and trophies for a possible private treaty sale. When in Palm Beach my colleague, Ed Monagle, and I had the pleasure of playing a round of golf with Gary at the Floridian, a course that Gary had designed. Early in the round Gary out-drove me and pointed out to me: “There you are, David. I’m in my 60s and you’re in your 40s and I can still outdrive you!”. On the 18th hole, a par 5, Gary hit his drive as hard as he could. He wanted to get to the green in 2 for a birdie. I followed him and also hit my drive as hard as I could. When we got to our drives I was 5 yards further than Gary. I pointed out to him: “There you are, Gary. I’m in my 40s and you’re in your 60s and I can still outdrive you!”. We both laughed. Gary then played a glorious shot onto the green. I congratulated him and asked what club he had used. He replied: “I hit a 3 Wood – with both feet off the ground!”. I asked: “Should I take a 3 Wood?” He replied: “You are going to need all of that – and more!”. I played a 3 Wood as true and as well as I could. It hit the back of the green and went over into the rough. “Too much club, Gary. Too much club”. How often does one have the opportunity to tell a 9-time Major winner that he has mis-clubbed you? We both laughed. Gary got his birdie. I got my par 5. I am now in my 60s. Gary is now in his 80s and I can tell you something. I’m sure he can still out-drive me.

When I met Gary Player

The first time, it’s really true, you never forget. June 2010, Golf Club Poggio de Medici, near Florence, Italy. Golf & Tourismo magazine and our events department organized a SAP Golf Clinic for VIP clients, enriched by the presence of Gary Player. My clumsy approach in greeting a golf legend of all time was tempered by his innate and contagious sympathy. A smile, a few jokes and then let’s go to play golf. I followed him like a shadow throughout the day, in which he provided valuable advice to the guests and entertained them with funny anecdotes, playing 18 holes at their side. After one of the rarest bad shot he looked at me and said: “Do you play golf?” “Yes I do” I replied embarassed. “What’s your handicap?” “I’m 7 Mr. Player…” I told him. “Ok, let’s look at me and say what’s wrong…”. I tried to say something but at the same time I thought I was coaching one of the best players ever, something so strange than only little few words came out from my mouth. He played great and after some others shot not good as he pretended, he turned immediately asking: “Coach, where is my coach??”. That’s Gary Player, not only a living legend in our sport but an extraordinary man, still animated by a strong passion for golf and a vital energy out of the ordinary. He won anything you can win in golf, in every corner of the world, but the intensity that is able to convey in every aspect of his life is so strong to give so much positivity to anyone near him. Since that day Mr. Player has become a close friend of Golf & Tourismo magazine, and three years ago he enthusiastically agreed to make a monthly column in our magazine. All Golf & Turismo family would like to give to Mr. Player the best wishes for a great 80th birthday and for even more years of success for him and for all the Gary Player Group. You’re the best and we love you. Thanks to transmit us your incredible passion and inspire us every day to make our life even better.
Andrea Vercelli – Italy

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