Biographies of Famous South Africans
Special South Africans


Those who have inspired us. Those who have defined us.
Those who have shown us our common humanity.

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Gary Player
Golfing Great
1 November 1935 - ?

Gary PlayerIf there were a Mount Rushmore of golf, Gary Player's handsome, well-recognized face would have to be included. Player is a member of the 'Big Three' along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer who dominated professional golf through the 1960's and 1970's.
But Player's influence goes far beyond the golf course. Known as the 'Black Knight', he is an accomplished businessman and devoted family man, a life-long philanthropist, and tireless international ambassador of golf. He was born on 1 November 1935, becoming one of the most successful international golfers of all-time, travelling more miles than any athlete in history - eclipsing twelve million miles. He is a three-time winner of the Masters and British Opens, and one of only five players to win all four Grand Slam titles (others are Hogan, Nicklaus, Sarazen and Woods). He completed the Grand Slam at age 29 in 1965.

He is the only player in the 20th century to win the British Open in three different decades (1959, 1968, 1974). He last won the Masters in 1978, when he started seven strokes behind the leaders (entering the final round) and won by one shot - with birdies at seven of the last ten holes for a final round 64. One week later he came from seven strokes back in the final round to win the Tournament of Champions. Player became the last player to win three tournaments in a row on the PGA Tour, when he captured the Houston Open the week following the Tournament of Champions in 1978. Player was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

In gusty winds at the 1998 Masters, became the oldest golfer ever to make to the cut, breaking the 25 year-old record set by Sam Snead. In January 2000, shut out through the first 18 holes, Player staged the biggest comeback in the history of the Senior Skins Game by making a birdie on the first playoff hole to win four skins and a $220, 000 jackpot to win the match.

He has received many other accolades, among them a Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from St. Andrews in 1995, a Hilton Hotel Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995, a Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Ulster, Ireland in 1997, and a Honorary Doctorate in Laws, University of Dundee, Scotland in 1999.

In "The Golfer's Guide to the Meaning of Life", Player reflects on the most important life lessons that the game has taught him, lessons humble and profound, wise and universal. Written for non-golfers, new golfers, and experienced golfers alike, this is a book not about hitting a ball into a cup, but about what a funny old game can teach you about living life with strength, purpose, and joy.

In a career that spans six decades, he has won 160-plus tournaments worldwide, including 9 Grand Slam tournaments and 19 Senior Tour victories. Player has designed more than 140 golf courses and operates Gary Player Golf, an equipment manufacturer. The author of several books on golf techniques, including "The Complete Golfer's Handbook", Player raises thoroughbred horses on his ranch in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In 2000 South Africa honoured Gary Player as the country's "Sportsman of the Century".


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