I have been fortunate enough throughout my writing career to have the honor of interviewing and meeting with some very astonishing people. Better yet, I have had the opportunity to play golf with some very interesting people as well. One great opportunity was playing with Mr. Gary Player’s son, Mr. Wayne Player, several years ago in a charity tournament in Florida.
You learn a lot about someone over 18 holes and as I walked away that day, I remember reflecting back on how very neat it was that Mr. Wayne Player spoke throughout the day with such respect and adoration for his father, throughout our round.
With that said, one of the truly great perks of being a journalist, is the opportunity to meet with, and learn about your subjects on a more personal level. As a writer, editor and golf hobbyist, I was every bit prepared to interview Mr. Gary Player. I had even had some first hand fun family stories from Wayne. However there was no way I could have truly prepared myself completely for one of the most enlightening 50 minutes of my life.
MR. GARY PLAYER was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1935. At the very young age of 8, Mr. Player lost his mother. With the passing of his mother and his father working a very labor intensive job in the gold mines of South Africa, young Player was watched after by an African American man that would encourage play and exercise outside after school. A rather small child growing up, Mr. Player recalls the day when his older brother left for WWII to fight along side US forces. He told his younger brother Gary that he “must exercise to get bigger.” Of course, a little brotherly rivalry never hurts either, so with the loss of his mother, his father working in the gold mines to make ends meet, his sister in boarding school and his brother off helping America in the war, young Gary Player, worked hard at school, played outside and truly began exercising at the young age of 9.
SIXTY THREE years later, we sit down with World Golf Hall of fame legend Gary Player to discuss the long-term benefits that fitness has given to him in all aspects of his life; his golf career, his mental outlook on life and his overall health. I would have to agree with Mr. Player, when he jokingly remarks, “that at 72 years of age, he could possibly “beat” over 85% of 40 year olds in a fitness contest, hands down.”
Of course, Mr. Player goes on to say “he truly thinks he could actually beat 85% of 30 year olds in a fitness contest but he doesn’t want to sound too boastful.” As he genuinely chuckles, to me, it is truly apparent from just looking at him and listening to his daily activities and travel schedule that he probably could make all of us 40 something’s look bad.
HIKING a small mountain behind his home in South Africa before the crack of dawn, working out for an hour and a half in his home gym, swimming and ranching until dusk, are typical of a day in the life of Mr. Player--- when he is at home that is. Having traveled more than 14 million miles, Mr. Player, has probably traveled more miles than anyone in the world.
The week prior to our interview, he had been in China, India, Singapore, to name of few. Exhaustion however is not an option for this spry 72 year old, “being fit, and exercising has enabled me to be productive,” remarks Mr. Player.
Long before the benefits of golf fitness were thought to be necessary or even appropriate, Gary Player devoted himself to strength, conditioning and proper nutrition to stay competitive. Today Gary Player is living proof that the positive effects of golf-specific fitness have enhanced the longevity of his game and prevented injuries that have enabled him to continue an extraordinary career.