As one of golf’s “Big Three,” Gary Player set the standard for worldwide tournament play, winning more than 100 titles including nine major championships. Luck is the residue of hard work, Player is prone to say, and he is quick to credit his father, who worked as a captain in a gold mine 12,000 feet underground, teaching by example that with hard work he could do anything.
“I was with him one time when he finished work,” said Player, host of the Nedbank Golf Challenge that starts on Thursday. “He took off his shoes and poured water out. I asked him why he was walking around in water. He said he wasn’t. That was his sweat.”
His father’s words imbued in him a core philosophy that would guide him throughout his life. Player, 82, continues to circle the globe with seemingly unlimited drive.
“I’m as busy as I’ve ever been,” Player said. “Traveling around the world designing golf courses, playing some tournaments, ranching, studying genetics, learning about eating. I’m so inquisitive about so many things. I still want to learn. So many people seem to lose their desire to improve and grow as they get older, but I can’t say that has happened to me.”
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
You were an early adopter to the importance of fitness in golf success. What do you say to the critics who feel that lifting weights has been detrimental to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, among others?
Nonsense. Tiger played his best when he was training hardest in the gym. And Rory’s strength is an asset to his game because he is competing against much bigger and naturally stronger players. It’s not just strength training though, but flexibility and core stability too. Nearly all the top professionals today are working out. There is a reason the PGA Tour has a traveling gymnasium. Physical fitness gives players an advantage — it’s that simple. If you don’t work out, you may linger but you will not last.