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Golf legend Gary Player lives on and on

His work off the links is as profound as his victories on them

Posted: March 14, 2009 1:37 a.m.
Updated: March 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Gary Player’s not done.

The legendary golfer, who many consider the greatest international golfer ever, finished a 15-minute conversation on Wednesday in a dining area at Valencia Country Club.

Hands were already shook and goodbyes were given, but Player stood up, one knee on a chair, and looked at the trees just off the tee box on hole No. 1.

“It’s not a case of speaking your mind,” Player resumes. “It’s about being interested in the planet.”

Passionate would be an understatement. The 73-year-old has passion coming out of every single pore in his tanned, wrinkled face.

Player’s passion is golf, but a conversation reveals so much more.

He makes other golfers marvel.

Player plays about eight tournaments a year.

But he ranches.

He designs golf courses.

He makes public appearances.

And he has 21 grandchildren.

Player won nine major championships on the PGA Tour in a career that began in 1957 — three Masters, three British Opens, two PGA Championships and one U.S. Open.

Add to that six Majors on the Champions Tour.

“Just an incredible athlete,” says fellow World Golf Hall of Famer and South African Nick Price. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a golfer first of all of his size and stature to have the longevity that he has had in the game. His love for the game is so apparent to all of us.

While all of us at 73 years old would probably be at home in our rocking chairs with our grandkids watching whatever, he still plays golf and he loves to play golf.”

And it’s apparent that he also loves to talk.

But Player has something relevant to say.

He takes aim at obesity.

It’s something that you can tell really works him up.

Player says he exercises four days a week, approximately an hour and a half per session.

It’s a reason that the 5-foot-7-inch golfer succeeded in the past and remains on the golf course at his age.

“One of my great ambitions also has to do with young people,” he begins. “I’d really like to get a message to 100 million young Americans, if I could, in that the body is a holy temple.

“I think the biggest problem facing the world right now is not the economy. It’s not wars. It’s the obesity.”

You feel the frustration in Player’s voice as his voice strains.

He says the United States would save hundreds of millions of dollars and save millions of lives if it better educated the youth about diet and exercise.

Player has a son with diabetes, but it’s not diet-related, he says.

But watching his son jab a needle of insulin into his body every day bothers him.

“I see so many dying, so many getting diabetes,” He says. “Diabetes is not a disease now, it’s an epidemic.”

Player says he gives talks at schools about physical health.

But with all his projects — Player owns a stud ranch, has designed more than 250 golf courses, has educational facilities, dabbles in real estate — one would think he has been run ragged.

One would think mental stress might have an effect.

“I think mental stress, contrary to what all the medical people say, mental stress is good for you. Not too much stress (though),” he says.

He goes on to say that stress is just a part of life. That there is no such thing as utopia.

“Hell, I’ve been a pro for 56 years,” he begins. “I’ve crapped myself on golf courses and that’s stress.

“Coming down the line trying to win The Masters, or the British Open or the U.S. Open ... that’s big stress. And living away from home and living in hotel rooms. I’m in two and a half hotels a week. You think that’s not stress — living away from your loved ones?”

Player is no doubt serious, but his sense of humor comes through.

He says that he’s a laugher and a big tease.

That he chooses happiness over sadness.

“He’s a wonderful entertainer,” Price says. “When you get Gary when he’s on song, he tells great jokes, he tells great stories and he makes people laugh. I have nothing but admiration for him.”

Golf fans genuinely admire Player for what he’s done in golf.

But he’s not done.

And he’s not done talking about issues either.

He discusses the amount of water the United States wastes.

He suggests parks and golf courses use waste water.

Player talks about his disgust for the amount of garbage being dumped into the oceans.

He keeps staring outside and shakes his head.

His work is not done.


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