Player Marks 40 Years Since Slam


It was 40 years ago this week when it happened ' something so radical that it literally shook the golf world. It was that week, at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, that Gary Player won the U.S. Open. It was the fourth leg of golfs Grand Slam, and Player won all four by the time was only 29.
Along with Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan, they were the only men at that point to win all four of golfs majors. Since Players dramatic playoff win over Australia's Kel Nagle, only two other players have pulled the trick ' Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Gary Player
Gary Player is one of only five men to win golf's career Grand Slam.
I told everyone I would retire if I ever won the Grand Slam, but at 29 I didnt know what else to do, and thank goodness I kept playing, says Player. Today he is 69 years old and still active on the Champions Tour, having won 96 times during a career that has spanned the globe.
Player could actually have won the 65 Open in regulation, holding a three-shot lead with only three holes remaining. But standing on the par-3 16th, he bunkered his tee shot, then three-putted. When Nagle birdied the 17th, the score was tied and the two were headed for 18 holes on Monday.
Monday, however, was all Player. He led by five at the nine-hole turn and eventually won by three, becoming the first non-American to capture the Open since Englishmen Ted Ray in 1920.
I remember wearing the same black shirt every day and washing it myself every night and hanging it over the shower rail to dry a silly superstition perhaps, but it gave me a certain level of mental karma, said Player.
Another first - he played with Shakespeare prototype fibreglass/graphite shafts in all his clubs and he became the first man ever to win on tour using these types of shafts.
Player had a vision during this tournament, which some people later passed off as a condition somewhere between self-hypnosis and visualization. Player 'visualized' his name on the giant scoreboard beside the last green everyday before he won the title. He saw it there in his mind's eye all week. Player 'saw' his name in gold lettering in the space against the year '1965' - and he made the vision a reality!
However, it was what he did at the winners ceremony afterwards that endeared him to golf fans everywhere. He had contended to the end before losing the Open in 1960, and had he won, he planned to give the entire winners check to cancer research. True to his word, in 65 he donated the entire first-place sum of $26,000. He paid tribute to his mother, a victim of cancer, while donating a large portion of the check to the Cancer Association. But he also gave half to the Junior Golf Association.
I am doing this because I made a promise to Joe Dey (then the executive director of the USGA) five years ago, said Player. I am doing this to repay America for its many kindnesses to me over the past few years.
He had begun the Grand Slam quest with the British Open in 1959, added the Masters in 1961, and then the PGA Championship in 62 before snaring the U.S. Open. In only seven years' span, he completed the Slam. He added two more Masters, two more British Opens and another PGA.
Quite simply, I consider winning the Grand Slam as my finest achievement in golf, he says.
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  • U.S. Open Photo Gallery