|Golf great Gary Player from South Africa won 165 professional tournaments worldwide over 6 decades including 9 Majors. His mother died of cancer when he was 8 and his father worked in the mines.|
|The Masters with the Big 3: Jack Arnie, & Gary|
We lived on a golf course that hosted a PGA Tournament and every year Gary Player was there and he was always a perfect gentlemen. He would demonstrate his astonishing fitness level for us boys in the pro shop doing all kinds of one-armed push-ups and one-legged squats while holding his other leg straight out during practice days and was always upbeat, approachable, and engaging . The biggest moment of tournament week was during the Pro-Am when Gary Player was introduced and there would be an old blind lady, whose name I forget, seated next to the 1st tee who adored Gary Player with his South African accent and perfect manners and their unforgettable annual reunion was witnessed by the many hundreds that enveloped the tee who were as silent as if Gary were trying to sink a side hill six footer for the win.
|This is from 1978 with Gary winning his 3rd Green Jacket.|
Flash forward a couple decades to 1996 and my father, who was a nationally ranked amateur golfer, had qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at Canterbury Country Club in Cleveland. I was caddying for him and we were surprised on the practice green by Gary Player asking if he could join us for the Tuesday practice round. Of course we graciously accepted and my dad was a little nervous to be playing with one of his idols and in front of at least 500 people that followed us all day and the thousands that would surround the 9th & 18th green and a couple others but on we went. Over the next 4 1/2 hours, Gary Player, already a Hall of Famer and wealthy, was a perfect gentleman, approachable and generous with his time for autograph hounds, and nearly every hole would jog over to the gallery ropes along the fairway to greet well wishers that he could see were elderly or wheelchair bound which several were. His demeanor during that 4 1/2 hours never dipped below cheerful and he genuinely pulled for the other 'no-names' in his group and offered helpful pointers knowing he'd never see us again nor had any corporate angle to benefit from. He chatted me up quite a bit and as we walked up the 18th fairway, you could see the crowds start to swell with murmurs of "there's Gary Player", I asked him how he did it all day every day for 40 years and he said he'd been poor growing up and had: "been blessed" so it was the least he could do.
Mothers really do know best.
Hey, did you see an 80 year old "perfect gentleman" make a hole-in-one in the Masters Par 3 Tourney today?