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Gary Player Was … a Player

June 17th, 2015 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National, UAE

He is not forgotten, exactly. The older generation remembers Gary Player. Little guy from South Africa. Always wore black. For a time was considered part of a Big Three with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

I imagine I covered a golf tournament he played in. The Bob Hope, maybe. I do remember a co-worker, Katie Castator, who was not charmed by Gary Player. She came back to the office and reported that she had watched him pick his nose.

Anyway, he was a player, was Gary Player. And it was 50 years ago this week that he won the U.S. Open, becoming the first non-American to win the golf grand slam — with victories in the British Open, PGA, Masters and US Open.

We were reminded of this, at The National, by representatives of the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, designed by Gary Player.

And that led to an interesting Q&A … a massive one. But if you are interested in Gary Player and what he thinks about the game, now that he is 79, you will want to look at this.

A couple of highlights:

–Player would like to see Phil Mickelson win. It would give Phil the grand slam of majors, and it would end one of the more bizarre just-short records in golf history. Mickelson has finished second in the US Open six times. That’s astonishing.

–Player seems to think, however, that Rory McIlroy is the man to beat.

–He believes a 50-plus golfer will win a major tournament “before I’m gone”. Which would be soon, unless he plans to live to 100. He nominated Tiger Woods as a possible candidate to win at plus-50.

–He is interested that everyone in golf (aside from John Daly, maybe) seems to grasp that regular exercise and physical conditioning makes a difference. He said he cared about that 50 years ago and was considered a freak. But he thought his conditioning was the key in defeating Kel Nagel in a playoff, in 1965.

–He is proud of designing the Saadiyat course, one of the primary golf destinations in Abu Dhabi. Can’t say I know anyone who has played it, but it seems popular. Not as popular as Yas Links, one island over, but popular.

–He also won the grand slam on the Senior tour. Which is pretty impressive.

–Now that I think of it, golfers tend to be long-lived. Bill Casper died recently, but he was in his 80s. Player is 80 next year. Arnold is there already. And so on and so on.

As Player put it, golf is “a game you can play as long as you get out of bed.”

Maybe I should take it up.


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