One of the original “Big 3” and winner of 18 major championships, nine on each Tour, World Golf Hall of Fame member Gary Player shares his passion for the Game in a lively and energetic discussion about the old days with “The Devil”, facing adversity, his love of country, healthy lifestyle & fitness, the apartheid history of South Africa, conservation of our natural resources, the future of the game and golf course design, coaching champions, Mark McCormack and much more. Buckle up folks, it’s a heck of a ride with Gary Player, “FORE the Good of the Game.”
Mike Gonzalez 00:01
Thanks for joining us for another episode of "FORE the Good of the Game" and Bruce Devlin, there aren't many people in the world who have their own color. But I am here at the starting line sporting the Team Racing silks out of the utmost of respect for our guests today.
Bruce Devlin 00:18
Well looking at both of you dressed in black and me in white. You know it's been a great relationship with this gentleman. I've known him when I first met him when I was 17 years old, he came to Australia. And I think I would consider Mr. Gary Player, one of the greatest players have ever lived and one of the finest gentlemen and we are sure glad to have him on board today. Thank you, Gary.
Gary Player 00:45
Well, Bruce, I'm delighted to be on this podcast with you and Mike. And as you say, we've known each other since 1957. I remember the first game we played, I think it might have been a Young Golf Club. And my goodness me, I said to the people, I said, watch this guy, this guy can play because very few people know that. You know, a lot of people need a pair of pliers to take a screw loose, but you could do with your hands because you were a plumber you had the strongest damn hands I ever saw. And I was so impressed with the way you played and obviously not surprised that you went on to do as well as you did.
Bruce Devlin 01:23
Well, thank you, Gary. And, you know, of all the great records. I guess the 'Big Three" which was Arnold and Jack and yourself what three wonderful players and it was sure a thrill for me to come over to this country and get to know you guys better. And we again, I thank you for being with us today. We really look forward to going back in your history and where you started from and, and follow the achievements that you've been able to make over the years.
Gary Player 01:57
Well Bruce, one of the things that has always impressed me about you, too, is that you, like me are very grateful for this great country, the United States of America. I get very upset when I hear people say this is a bad country. They've obviously never traveled much. I'd love them to just if they don't think it's a good country, just go somewhere else and try to live there for a week. This has been a phenomenal country. It's been the Samaritan of the world, helping people all the time. And you and I have this great love for this country.
Bruce Devlin 02:31
Mike Gonzalez 02:33
Let's go back in time, Bruce, you mentioned 17 years old first time you encountered Gary Player, why don't you to take us back to those times.
Bruce Devlin 02:43
Well, he was a he was just a young man. And I was a little bit younger than him. And he started off by saying it was young. But it was in fact a little town called Yas.
Gary Player 02:55
Oh, yes. Yeah.
Bruce Devlin 03:01
And if you remember Gary, they were sand greens, right. So, it was it was it was a great experience. And I don't know how many I don't know how many rounds you and I played together over the years, but it would, it's probably up in the hundreds. But it's always fun to tee it up with Gary Player.
Gary Player 03:26
Well, you know, Bruce sand greens, very few people today have any idea about sand greens. But sand greens are an absolute delight to play on. The green is made out of beautiful sand and oil for those that have never tried it. And you hit the ball onto the green, you have a scraper. It's like a T-piece like that of metal. And you scrape where you get to putt. So actually, it's the best green in the world. There's no grain and every putt, no break, every putt is dead straight. And if you are chipping off the edge of the green, if you get you it brings out the best of feel because if you hit the flop shot, it just hits and stops exactly where it lands. And if you want to hit a run up shot, you got to have great feel because it's way slower than a normal green. And let me tell you the way we're running out of water, and this is a very serious thing what I'm going to say now, my brother was the world's leading conservationist. And he always said to me by the year 2025 that you will be 25% short of water. Now we are a strange and marvelous people the human being we can invent certain things, getting water from humidity, etc., etc. desalination but the world is in a serious problem with water. And I wouldn't be surprised for me to see many golf courses in the future go back to sand greens as though it's a big shock for people to hear this, but we will not be allowed to just use all this amount of water on golf courses in the future. I hope I'm wrong. But if you just see right now the drought in, in California and places, you know the Nevada. I mean, even in Florida here the you know, where you're inundated with rain, they still have had times where they've had water restrictions. And in Cape Town, South Africa, I live in the Cape. They had a great tourist attraction, because it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. And they you couldn't even have a bath in a hotel, you're allowed to take a shower, but they stopped the baths. So, I mean, don't let's take water for granted. This is something that people waste. If you had to, you just got to look in your neighborhood. It's raining and the sprinklers are going. So, this tremendous wastage of water is something we got to give a lot of thought to.
Mike Gonzalez 05:54
I wonder if there are still so there must be some sand greens around, I remember as a young man in Central Illinois playing on sand greens, just exactly the way you described, Gary.
Gary Player 06:04
I don't know about America, but there are. I'm sure there's still some in Australia and in South Africa. But it was a great experience I built by a golf course on my on my farm and I put sand greens and I put grass greens. And everybody who played them prefer the sand greens so it's horses for courses.
Bruce Devlin 06:22
Yeah, the maintenance is a little different too, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on sand greens.
Gary Player 06:29
Yeah, yeah, that I think the things we got to think about now in the future is maintenance of golf courses. I think we got to think that we don't get brainwashed about making them too long. Because you have a few long hitters on the tour, the average club is never going to have a tournament, you don't want to be spending a lot of money, renovating, and making the golf course you know, another four or 500 yards long, the members don't enjoy it. And the other thing is we got to make golf cheaper for young people, because the youth of the nation are the trustees of posterity. And they’re going to fill the vacuum. So, we need to think of making golf cheaper, and encouraging more young people to play golf. Now we do have the First Tee, and lots of other programs. But we must never take it for granted. You know, one of the things that hurt me, Bruce is guys would go out and qualify for the tour. They practice all year with anticipation, and they lose by one shot. So there goes your career on the regular Tour. Now you do have the Korn Ferry and the other tours, but I've always felt for these young guys that just miss out who have potential. I've always said if I was the chairman or the CEO of the PGA or the Tournament Players Division, I'd ask every golfer to give 1% one lousy percent of their prize money, which would really result in a lot of money for these young guys that have got nothing, no Tour to play. And I think that would be a very simple thing for players to do. And it would mean an awful lot to young people.
Bruce Devlin 08:08
You got that right. 1% doesn't sound much but over a long period of time, well what's the gross number for prize money this year on the tour must be somewhere in the oh, I don't know, over 100 million.
Gary Player 08:24
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Bruce, you know, you just look at the prize money. I mean, young South African boy, Garrick Higgo won the tournament this week, which gave me such pleasure, because I've been talking to him a lot. Not on the theory. We do talk about the theory, but I spoke to him, I speak to him on the mind, and I brainwash him with the mind all the time. And I think this is one of the reasons that I don't want to take credit. But I think one of the reasons he's doing so well because his mind, and what wins golf tournament is not long hitting it, it's an asset. But what wins tournaments is the mind and being a great putter. And it's called, it's called "it" and not many players. I can only think right now I'll give you a shock. At this stage. I only see one player but it's still early, that really has ”it” on the turn. That's Jordan Spieth. He's the best player from 100 yards in in the world. But he's not very good at hitting the ball from tee to green, because he has a lot of faults in his swing. In fact, I see four faults in his swing in my humble opinion. And when he gets those right, watch out, he'll be number one in the world. And with technology, I think he will get those right. But he has "it”, and I can't explain it. You watch him play. He plays junk and shoots 69 that's what Tiger Woods could do. That's what Jack Nicklaus could do. All champions could play bad, bad golf and still break 70 and I admire that so much and I'd love to see Jordan Spieth come number one because he's a wonderful young man. He's an all-American guy. But we've got to get this through to young people. It's the short game. Look at Tiger Woods. He was not a good driver of the ball, Mickelson very poor driver of the ball. And they will went on to the world. It's "You drive for show, and you putt for dough Laddie!"
Bruce Devlin 10:15
Well, you have another young South African boy who just came onto the scene here, who I was astounded looking at his stats last week, the youngish South African boy who hits it so far, I mean, goodness gracious me averaged something like 350 yards a drive. That's remarkable. I mean, I can't even comprehend that.
Gary Player 10:42
Wilco Nienaber. Also, we've got but we've got a lot of young guys at the moment that are playing it _______ guys that are really good we've got a lot of young guys and you know, South Africa is like Australia, you know, we have great golf courses, great climate, very good coaches. And, you know, coaches is a very interesting and it's a very controversial thing, but I think old saying horses for courses, you get coaches, then I put them in categories. You got a coach that can teach a junior, you got a coach that can teach the average member, but very few coaches can teach a Tiger Woods or a world champion. And that applies so aptly with what happened to Tiger Woods. Now, yeah, was a man, Tiger Woods, the greatest talent without a debate of any golfer that ever played. Now his record, I don't think, will equal Jack Nicklaus's. Although Tiger Woods, I think he's gonna come back, contrary to what a lot of people say, because it was his right leg that got smashed, not his left leg, it was his left leg, I think he's done, but the right leg you can get away with it and I think he's gonna come back and win tournaments. But you look at Tiger Woods the way he played; he wins the U.S. Open by 15 shots not 5...15. Unheard of. The next week, he's having a lesson. Now, when you teach a pro golfer if he came to me, I would have said Tiger, take the next bus and get out of here and go back home. I’m not going to teach you anything, anything. We can discuss diet, we can discuss exercises, but you don't change a thing. So, what happens? You see, a man has a little natural movement. For example, right before I start, I kick my knee in I don't know I'm doing it. I don't even know I'm doing it. If somebody said to me, Gary, you're kicking your knee in and you're making your body go open, you've got to stop it up. I'll tell you I'm gone. I'm gone. This is, no and this is what happened. They take that little genetical thing in their swings, and they change it to their ideas of thinking. And so personally, if I was a young man today, wanting to get help, they're very I could count players in the world, 10 coaches on my hand that can teach an advanced professional golfer how to play. And I have great, great respect for club pros because I'm a professional golfer. But there are categories. There are categories. And man, to teach a champion is a very, very complicated thing. And we've seen guys ruined just look. Tiger Woods, Ian Baker-Finch. Mike Weir, Trevor Immelman, Charles Schwartzel. So, you can go down the line of all these guys that won majors, I'm not talking about won tournament that won majors had never played well, again. Never played well, again. So, I mean, that's a very good point. And you know, that's just to show, I mean, you take a guy like Trevor Immelman, this man had a swing. I thought this was the new Ben Hogan swing of tour watching him play. And all of a sudden, he can't win anymore. Because they go along, and they have lessons. Why? Go with the flow? You don't change something? Man, I loved what Trevino said. He said did you have a lesson from anybody. He says no. He says if I find somebody that can beat me, I'll have a lesson from him.
Bruce Devlin 14:10
There you go.
Gary Player 14:13
That that yeah, that fits into the thing that I'm saying. It's not a case of no respect.
Mike Gonzalez 14:20
Gary, putting this in terms that an amateur might comprehend then, are you saying that every golfer has one true authentic swing?
Gary Player 14:32
There's look, there are certain things that I mean, if I you know, I'll give you a shock. If I sit here and watch the Tour players today, okay. Almost every one of them I can see something wrong, something some little thing. It might be a tiny thing. But I sit here having been blessed to be around the greatest striker of the ball that ever lived Ben Hogan. Ben Hogan is the only man I've ever met in my whole career, that knew that swinging from A to Z. A lot of players and teachers know the swing from A to Y, or A to W. But Hogan was the only way to do it from A to Z. And you know, the sad thing is, he didn't want to tell you what it was. That's the sad thing. But I was blessed that he mentioned two things to me. And I can tell you, that made a massive difference in me winning 165 tournaments and 18 majors and both Grand Slams on the Tour and regular Tour, Senior Tour, and made a very big difference. So, knowledge is the light. And there are always certain things that will restrict you that will restrict you in the future from playing well. You take a man like John Rahm; this guy is so talented. This guy is so, so talented. And what happened to him last week, I was very, very sad, but his backswing already as a young man hardly goes past his hips and he's shut, and he's shut. Now there's a great, there's a great fad or trend for people to swing back shut now, swinging back shut is poison. When you swing back shut like that with your left wrist like that. You are you're in trouble if you once your strength goes, you won't be able to play at all you cannot play at all. And my advice is to young guys stay away from that shut position. Now there's John Rahm so, so talented with his backswing so short, his legs are the strongest on the Tour reminds me of Nicklaus, so talented. But if I was teaching John Rahm, I'd get him out of the shut face position. And I'd make him go to yoga and learn to stretch and get some width in the backswing. Because I can tell you guys from experience...
Mike Gonzalez 16:49
That's what you're trying to do lately!
Gary Player 16:51
Yeah, when I played my best, I was below parallel. Now I can swing inside a telephone booth without touching the sides.
Bruce Devlin 17:00
You and Doug Sanders
Gary Player 17:03
So, you see for every player that plays you know having had 70 years’ experience with I played with Tommy Armour, Gene Sarazen. I played with them all. And I you know, I studied the swing, and I could see something wrong almost, some tiny thing not big in, every single player. Every single one I see some tiny little thing.
Bruce Devlin 17:29
Well, your shut position at the top, I think Gary is certainly something that Rahm has to watch closely. But as you said, once he loses his strength, then he's going to have some problems with it, I believe as well as you.
Gary Player 17:44
Well, we can say well, you know, by that time I'll have 500 million in the bank, right? But it's not a case what people are gonna understand Bruce and you and I know this, we don't play golf for the money. We played golf because we loved it. There wasn't any money when we played. I never ever thought about how much money am I making. If I stood on the last tee at Augusta needing a bogey to win the tournament. And a guy came and said make a double bogey and I'll put 5o million in your account. You wouldn't even think about it. No, you practice all your life to win Augusta, to win the British Open. And you're not going to go do it for the sake of money. I want to die knowing I won, I won the British Open, that's something that your 50 million will be gone. With all your children and grandchildren, I have it wouldn't even last a week. I've got to win a tournament. I gotta win a tournament to break even. plus, plus, plus, I'm in the horse business and everything eats while you sleep.
Mike Gonzalez 18:45
Now Gary, I'm not gonna let you I'm not gonna let you go on. You mentioned the thing about Hogan. And you mentioned that he told you a couple things he might have to share with us what those two things were that he told you.
Gary Player 18:56
Oh now, you'll have to read about that about that in my new book.
Mike Gonzalez 19:02
Let's get the plug in, which is titled?
Gary Player 19:07
"I know a hell of a lot about nothing."
Bruce Devlin 19:11
Well, I'll tell you what, the new book will be the 37th book that Mr. Player has written.
Gary Player 19:19
A lot of them were written in different languages, only about four of them they could read.
Mike Gonzalez 19:25
Let's go back. If we can Gary, take us back to the early days just growing up in South Africa. Even before you had been exposed to the game, just tell us a little bit about for our listeners what it was like growing up in those times in South Africa.
Gary Player 19:42
You know, I meet a lot of people I did a lot of dinner talks and represent a lot of companies and speak to their employees and also at schools. And I repeatedly say the greatest gift that anybody can have in life is adversity. People at the time you think the world is coming to an end, but really after adversity becomes joy. And if I think of everybody who's been successful, there are exceptions. Everybody's gone through something. Ben Hogan's father shot himself in front of Ben Hogan. Can you imagine that? People like myself; my mother dies when I'm nine years old. And my father is working on a gold mine 8,000 feet underground, making no more than 100 pounds a month in his life. My brother goes to war to fight with the Americans and the Allies at 17...17. My brother-in-law went with him, never came back. My sister went to boarding school. Fortunately, I went to one of the five greatest high schools in the world, I think South Africa still have the greatest high schools in the world today. And I traveled an hour and a half to get back home, got back home, a dark house, tiny little house, had to cook my food, iron my clothes, wash my clothes, get up in the morning and never be late for school, you couldn't do that. And I lay in bed, I can remember it like yesterday. It's so vivid in my mind. I lay there wishing I was dead crying night, after night after night. And that's the reason I became a world champion. So, you look back, and you say thank you. And there's an example with everybody adversity in their lives. And it never leaves you right there. My wife who I've been with, together for 71 years, she's dying of pancreatic cancer. It's tough. It's tough. And, but that's life. And it's going to happen to everybody. It's not something that I've got patented or anybody's got patented. It's going to happen to everybody. And life goes on. And life is wonderful. I will never understand. I'll never understand the traits of a human being. You know, I got the Medal of Freedom, the greatest honor you can get in the United States of America. And I devoted a lot of my life to freedom. I brought hospitals for blacks in South Africa, churches, I built schools, Aids centers in China. Homeless homes for people in London, sponsored black golfers overseas took money out of our pocket sponsored tournaments, resigned from the PGA because they wouldn't vote two black guys on our committee, I wore black and white pants, demonstrating against apartheid because I knew how hard it was to grow up in apartheid in South Africa. And let me tell you, I was scared to say anything as a youngster, you know, people just vanished. They put you in jail for 90 days they had a 90-day policy. So, all these things, this adversity that you go through, is tough. But it's always an asset in the end. And I can tell you, I was very scared to say things as a youngster in South Africa, petrified I can remember. And then you get a man like Nelson Mandela come along. And he was so full of love. And I spent three years with him, we raised 20 million bucks for young black kids. But coming back to the Medal of Freedom. So, when I get the Medal of Freedom, which was started by president john F. Kennedy in 1963. We got on our media, there were three people that went off our tweeting system because they called me a racist, a racist for getting the Medal, because Donald Trump gave it to me awarded it to me, it's not a Donald Trump award. It's an American award. And so, we live in a time now with such hatred, with such hatred, and such nastiness. And Martin Luther King was another hero of mine, when you think of the command he had of the English language, which was quite incredible. And he and Mandela boasted and Mahatma Ghandi, people who really knew what adversity was, that love will always beat hate, and the best way to do it, and when I played golf, I had demonstrators in Australia, in England in America, I lost the PGA, which very few people know, in Dayton, Ohio, by one shot to Raymond Floyd, they threw ice in my eyes. They threw telephone books at my back at the top of my backswing, they charged me on the green, they screamed on my short putts, they rolled balls between my legs when I had a short putt, and I lost the tournament by one shot. Jack So we all have difficulties to encounter in the world. And my advice to young people learn to be strong, learn to have a faith and above all, and this is what I tell young Garrick. You've got to believe you're the best. Now Bruce, you know how many guys say oh well, I'm playing well. I'm on the first year the British Open tomorrow, man I know I'm the best but when they get on that tee, they poop themselves. And all of a sudden, they were saying well you know I was a liar I don't believe I'm the best, the narrow fairway and the wind's blowing but the big thing is you've got to believe that you are going to be the best. And this is what I've done with this young Garrick. I've spoken to him and helped him. I've advanced him in mindset, maybe five years, whatever the number is. And you know people today are reluctant to listen to older people, they call them old poops, etc, etc. But you cannot beat experience. You take somebody with experience, and they can advance your career, five years, 10 years, whatever the number is. And so, when I played Jack Nicklaus in the final of the World Matchplay championship in England, and Bruce knows, of course, well, Wentworth in October, it's wet, it's long. And there are 12 opinions by the press who's gonna win and in the final unanimously said, Jack Nicklaus, I believe six and four the next week, next year, we came back, they said, Nicklaus I beat him five and four. Why? Not because I could play better with him. But I believed I was gonna beat him. And the mind is something we haven't scratched the surface of the mind. The mind is the most powerful, stronger than the atomic bomb. And we're only at 10% what's going to happen when we get to 15 or 20%. Golf is in its infancy. We haven't seen as they say, nothing yet. You're gonna find guys come out when I told Peter Allis on BBC guys will hit the ball four hundred yards one day, he gave me hell. He embarrassed the living daylights out of me. I was talking nonsense. Now I'm saying if the ball if the ball can go 500 yards, LeBron James will come out that kind of build one day we've never had a big man play golf yet, only one in the history of George Baer. LeBron James comes out and has a golf swing, he'll hit at 500. He'll carry over where Bryson DeChambeau lands now. We haven't seen anything yet. We got guys that will come out with minds that are so superb it'll be frightening. So, golf is in its infancy.
Bruce Devlin 27:00
So, Gary, you're in the architectural business, like I've been for a long time. What effect do you think all this length has on all the future of building golf courses is going to be because of this length. You take a club like Merion for instance, today, even today's players probably wouldn't hit a driver at Merion more than two or three times a round.
Gary Player 27:27
For me, it's very sad. It's very sad. And you know, we've got to realize that, that the world changes and technology's important, but we've got to realize we're running out of water, number one. Number two, if you use too much fertilizer, it doesn't do your crops, any good because I'm a farmer. And I know, instead of using a natural ingredient like horse manure, or chicken manure, or etc., etc., in your lands, like simply use fertilizer, because it's cheaper. And the members don't want to have their golf courses made longer. They don't want to have the greens made with more severe undulations because they cannot putt on a flat green, and they cannot play on a normal golf course. Now you want to punish them. And a lot of people and a lot of ladies are resigning from certain golf courses. So, we got to realize that professional golf is not the most important thing. It's the amateur golf that's the important thing. And why must we make golf courses longer and go to that expense when the golf course is losing money as it is, and you'll never get a golf tournament on your course anyway. And the thing is, is it's just a waste of time. So, what they've got to do, and the USGA and the R&A, I'm sad to say, have been very, very slow. And maybe it's because America is such a litigious society, they've been scared, but we're going to have to slow that ball down immediately on professional golf, the ball should be cut back 50 yards, and I'm a pro golfer at 85 and enjoy my golf and love it, but I'd accept it with great ease and with great pleasure, because you can't get changing the golf courses. Because of what's happening. You got to change the ball. Now leave everything as it is for the amateur golfer because he can't play very well anyway. And you don't want to stop him now they stopped the players from using the long putter. I'm vehemently against the long putter for professional golf, I don't believe you should be able to anchor it. I don't believe you should be able to put the putter here when you're putting either but for amateur golf, they stopped the guys from using the long putter. Now, numerous people around the world have the yips and they were going to stop playing and I know many players that were going to stop, and they got on a long patter. And they started enjoying their golf again, what happened, they stopped the long putter and take it away. So those people stopped playing golf. We don't want to stop people playing golf. We need to encourage them. So, we got to think very carefully of the decisions of the leaders. Not only in golf courses. But in running a country, leadership in business in a country and in golf is all similar. We got to make the right decisions. So, we've got to cut the ball back 50 yards immediately. Otherwise, they get it. Well, you know DeChambreau, on a normal day. Without the greens without being wet, he could stand out on the first tee at Augusta and drive the first green. I mean, it's a joke. He hits a wedge to the second hole, he hits a wedge to number 15, par fives. He hits a nine iron to number 13. I mean, it's the whole concept of the game of golf has been destroyed. And it's unnecessary. So, you gotta make the changes according to what's taking place at the time.
Mike Gonzalez 30:45
So, Gary, you alluded this to perhaps part of the answer but if we were to appoint you Grand Poohbah of all of golf, over the R&A, the USGA, the PGA of America, the PGA Tour, and you set out to make the game better, beyond the ball, what other changes would you make?
Gary Player 31:07
That's a very big question. First of all, I wouldn't like the job
Mike Gonzalez 31:11
It would be a thankless job, that's for sure.
Gary Player 31:17
But you know, there are a lot of things that Bruce and I grew up with, for example, you know, when you are playing golf, you had to be quiet. I play with guys, now, they've got Elvis Presley singing in the cart while they play. Now, you know, that's a shock for me. But is it that serious? And you know, you've got to be able to break the adjustment. Winston Churchill, my all-time hero said, "change is the price of survival." And so let him play his music, if they're going to come out and play, let them let them let them have it on. A lot of little things like that, that we're gonna have to even though it hurts us, if you want people to continue to play the game. And remember, sports like cycling and other sports. They take a lot of people away from golf, particularly young people. So, we've got to make the right decisions when it comes... A rule, one are the rules I would change for example, I would never allow leaving the pin in the cup. Now, first of all, what it does, if you look carefully, and I play a lot of different golf courses all the time, the cups are a dog's breakfast they're such a mess. These guys with big hands, put their hand in the cup, and they pull it out and they lift the cup up by at least an eighth of an inch. Now when that cap is raised one eighth from an inch, it has an amazing effect on a putt coming up to the hole with the right speed. So, I would say it doesn't save much time. One guy leaves it in, what guy leaves it out, take the pin out, and don't ruin the cup for people coming up behind you, that's one thing. And out of bounds. I'd make it a lateral hazard. You stand on the first tee. And Bruce hits a beautiful drive 290 hits a tree or a sprinkler bounces out of bounds unluckily, I stand up there now and I whiff the ball I play two, he plays three. But he hit a great shot and I hit the worst shot in golf. So that's a rule I think should be changed. So, there are a lot of things, and look, the USGA and the R&A and the PGA I have great respect for. They've done so much good for golf. But don't let's stop. We got to keep moving. And don't be scared to make the rules and make golf a better game.
Bruce Devlin 33:30
So, Gary, from what you've said earlier? Do you believe that we need bifurcation in the game of golf? In other words, let the amateurs continue to do whatever they want to do but take the professional golf Tours and do what you say, bring a maximum initial speed of the golf ball down. Stop the springing metal faces on both woods and irons. What do you think?
Gary Player 34:02
Well, I mean, as far as professional golf is concerned, I think we got to make the changes to just stop this ridiculous. Everything is basing everything on distance now. And it's making a mockery of the golf course. Now you designed golf courses and I design now what do you do now? You go in there now and you say, well, I'm gonna design a 7,000-yard golf course. And 10 years’ time they say you know that Bruce Devlin and Gary Player, they didn't know what they were doing. They had no idea. They were clowns. So, you know, we've got to do a lot of thinking and I say to people who I design a golf course for, do you want a championship golf course? Oh, yes. I said do you think you'll ever get a championship on this golf course. You know what the odds of you getting a championship on this golf course. Almost none. Why don't you build a golf course for your members and your juniors and your ladies to come out and enjoy. They want to put bunkers in front of greens. Now, a pro can hit over that bunker and stop the ball and bring it back, if necessary, the old lady playing golf, the majority of the members cannot hit over that bunker and stop the ball, then they've got an undulating green on top of it. So, they make them they punish them all the time. You got water; I call it double trouble. If I've got water on the right-hand side of the green, I don't put a deep bunker on the left-hand side, give him a bailout area. Because water gives you paralysis of analysis. And unless your underwater stroke is good, you're going to be very scared. The thing is, I'm a great believer have wide fairways, and don't have a golf course, that's fairway from green to tee or tee to green. You can't afford that you got to have surfaces now brown surfaces, from the tee to the fairway, you can't be watering all those areas. Now we can't afford to waste, all that watering is a waste of time. There's got to be a change in the design of golf courses as well. There's nothing worse than when I go to a golf course, and I see just shudder and Bruce you and I know the longest and the most difficult shot in golf is a bunker that is 30 yards from the greens. Yep. Can anybody play that I started playing that as the first player quite honestly, to do that, playing it with a wedge and a nine iron and an eight iron and I played it quite well. But you can't play it with a sand wedge. And the member doesn't know that he gets in.. There's no member in the whole of the United States that can play a 30-yard bunker shot, not one. And if he thinks he can come down to Florida and you and I are going to have a little bet on every shot, and just bring a bag full of cash.
Bruce Devlin 36:42
So, Gary, I'm sure you, you do the same thing that I do, what we actually do is try to build 18 par threes. Because the tee shot is a common length. The bridge shot for a par five is a common length. So, what you have in effect really is 18 par threes at the end of two, two controlled points. So, when I first started my angle point with the driver, listen to this carefully. 240 yards. In 2002, when I built a golf course in Scotland, it was 285 yards. Yeah, today, what do you do? Do you put your first angle point at 340? There you go. I mean, that's the killer with it all that just shows the progression of what has happened to the game is, you know, you go certain, you know 240 to the point and then you do 220 to the next point and then you do 80 yards into the par five. Yeah, it's a it's a nightmare. Actually.
Gary Player 37:53
It's a nightmare. That's what I said in 10 years’ time, but that'd be saying, and that's why you know Bruce. You've got to make golf enjoyable for your members. You want to have wider fairways; you want to have flatter greens. You don't want to have bunkers in front of the greens. You don't have to make it a rinky dink golf course. But what they're doing now they have; you see a Pro comes to play their golf course. And he hits a driver and wight iron to the par five oh the whole committee says, this is ridiculous. But no member does that you might have one or two members that hit it a long way. But you can't change your whole golf course because some Pro comes here... I saw this at a golf course I was in South Africa. They wanted to change the whole golf course. They had a pro tournament there and when what they saw was frightening. I said, you're never gonna have another tournament here anyway. And I said, what do you want to change spend all this money for rather put your money into developing the game for improvement for young people. That's what we've got to do, giving them a chance to play, making it less expensive, and making them enjoy it.
Mike Gonzalez 39:03
Gary, let me ask you this on that point. With the resurgence of golf participation, we've seen coming out of COVID, numbers are up everywhere. Do you think that's sustainable? Or do you think we have to do something different to sustain that increased interest perhaps that we're seeing?
Gary Player 39:21
I don't think it will be the same when COVID is gone. Because people were locked up. And that was the one sport you could go out and play. I was shocked at Canada. Can you believe that Canada only just recently opened up their golf courses? I mean, can you imagine being that backward? I mean the whole world has realized it makes sense that people can play golf it's out in the open and there's nothing worse than being locked up. Can you imagine people of my age 85 in a one-bedroom apartment being locked up for years in a room No wonder there were suicides. No wonder there were drug increases no wonder there were suicides no wonder there was depression, no wonder there was divorces living with your wife in the same house every single day. You know, in some cases, I mean, it was a tragedy and to stop people from not playing golf, golf is an incredible sport. Everybody can play. There's no other game like golf, know other golfer has the longevity that golf that golf has. You take a man who's a tennis player, I'm 85 here, and I can go around and shoot par and under par. And now you take a guy at tennis at 85? Well, first of all, he's dead. Secondly, secondly, the thing is, secondly, they're finished when they're 32, 33. Football, you can't walk again, you played NFL for three years, you can't to walk, your head's bashed in. I mean, you take it golf is an incredible game. And we got to keep it that way. And realize that it's the amateur, that is the king of the sport. And Bruce, I tell you, I will make you a promise that you'll will have this on your podcast in your files, that they will, they will change the length of the ball in the next X amount of years. I can tell you, when they see somebody come out and carry the ball over DeChambeau, they'll get a shock, and they drive the first hole in Augusta, and they drive over the third hole at Augusta they're going to see things there they never dreamed about. They will be forced to change the ball. Because you know, you say about Augusta was embarrassing for me, Bruce. I said, you know, even Augusta they can't put their tees back in the streets. Well, I no sooner said that. And they bought the two highways and now they can put the tees in the streets.
Bruce Devlin 41:49
You will recall Mr. Player; you'll recall the gentleman and I'm not sure exactly the number of years, but we have a probably as you said nobody will ever meet this man's championships across the world. Nicklaus back in, I'm say 25 years ago said we ought to stop the ball from going too far. Do you remember him saying that?
Gary Player 42:17
Yes, I do. I do. And he came out with a, I can't remember the name of the ball. Yeah, whatever it was, the only trouble when you hit it the wind blew it back over your head. Yeah, when you hit it the ball, the wind blew the ball back over of your head. So that couldn't go off. But that Jack made this suggestion a long, long time ago. No question about it. Yeah, no, that's right Bruce.
Bruce Devlin 42:42
And it's interesting, too, that, you know, in his day, he was the longest player, and here is the longest player saying, you know, we, you know, we better be careful about having this golf ball going too far.
Gary Player 42:55
And you know, Jack today would be known as a very average hitter on the Tour. I'm talking about if you took a stats with the wood, but if you gave him, you gave him in his prime this ball and this club, let me tell you 350 would have been common. He had a drive in Dallas, Texas in a long-driving competition with a wooden club and that old lousy ball, 341 yards and still got the money clip in his pocket today. People don't realize how long Jack was. But no, and you know, I've been known as a kook. And I'm proud to be known as a kook because I had some vision, I'd like to think. I told them 20, 30 years ago, that somebody would win a major at 50 years of age. Now I'm gonna make another kook statement, somebody will win a major at 60. Because the human being with the food change the exercise and the mindset, when you’re 60 in time to come it will be equivalent of 40. And the other thing I did, I started weight training with Frank Stranahan in 1953. And yesterday, I went to the gym, and I could still leg press 300 or 350 pounds, I run the treadmill at 12. That's almost max, I do all these exercises at 85. Now you see things happening that people never realize. The next big change in sports is going to be eating. The United States of America, the biggest single problem in the United States of America today is obesity. It's the cause of most of the diseases and more people die of obesity, then all the world wars put together. So, there's going to be massive, massive change. The Cleveland Clinic told me, if you could live another 14 years and you're in good shape, not me. I'll be too old; we'll guarantee you another 10 years of life because we will have a different world to live in. And then I started doing weights with Fred Stranahan. And then you hear on certain guys, on certain networks saying you cannot lift weights and play golf. Well, I'm not doing too badly at 85 Having lifted heavy weights. And I want to tell you Tiger Woods didn't do too badly lifting heavy weights. And neither did Dustin Johnson and all the players that are on the tour today that are working with weights. The whole world, athletes that run they used to say you can't do weightlifting and do a sprint or a long-distance run. Weightlifting builds strength, it builds bone density, it gives you confidence. Strength is speed. But you get these knowalls or these golf outlets telling 'em, well when Tiger was playing badly, he was lifting too heavy, or Rory was not playing well, lifting too heavy. I mean such nonsense. It's actually scary. One guy on the Golf network the other day said, listen to this. He said you're know, this is the first good left-hander that's come out of South Africa, talking about Garrick Higgo, they took a long time to suddenly realize who this guy was. And they hadn't done their homework to the way that they should have because this guy won two tournaments in England won the other day with a total of 255 finished fourth in the next and won the next as well by about 15, 16 shots, comes over here qualifies in the PGA, first tournament in America and comes out there. Then what a story his father gets killed in a motor car crash, he's 22 years of age, what a story. And it's only at the end that they woke up and started talking about this guy. And so, my point is this guy says on television, well, then South Africa haven't had any real left handers to come out of the country. Wrong. We had a guy called Phil Simmons, who could hit the ball over 300 yards played the European Tour, was a very good player, and eventually decided he wanted a family life. We sell many left-handed clubs. He said this guy says on television one of the announcers, well, they probably didn't have left-handed because they couldn't get all the gear the equipment into down there. They didn't have all those facilities. In the meantime, South Africa have one more major championships than any country in the world other than the United States post war. 23 majors. Now we've got over 200 golf courses with all the best equipment, we got golf outlets there. Compared to America, you can go to any of those places and buy anything you can buy in the United States. And he's telling the world that makes it sound like we live in the boondocks.
Mike Gonzalez 47:44
So, you can actually get left-handed clubs in South Africa huh? What a concept!
Gary Player 47:51
You know, honestly, it's really sad that you can have people make statements like that. And then the leaders or the owners of the network don't sort of reprimand him, I think it's quite sad.
Mike Gonzalez 48:01
You know, taking you back you mentioned the fitness and it's been an important theme of yours your whole life. You know, when you started you mentioned with Frank Stranahan but when you started you were really ridiculed for it, weren't you? I mean, your fellow players kind of looked and said what are you doing it's crazy?
Gary Player 48:16
Well, my dear friend, Jack Nicklaus who's my best friend today in golf and Arnold Palmer, we were block brothers. They said, You crazy man, you can't do all this heavy lifting of waits you and Stranahan. You're crazy. I was ridiculed left, right and center in the press, by everybody. It was an absolute, the only exercise people did in those days was they took the olive out of their Martini and put it into another one. Lifter their olive.
Mike Gonzalez 48:48
Let's go back, oh maybe 60 years or so. And there's a fella that came on the scene by the name of Mark McCormack. And he formed a company called IMG and of course, the stable that he assembled at the time included, among others; yours truly Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, the "Devil" was part of that at some point. Take me back to those days. What was just your reflections on that whole experience, Gary?
Gary Player 49:17
Well, I get a call from Mark McCormack. And he says, I'd like to manage your affairs, I manage Arnold Palmer and we'll do it on a handshake, which I did and then the next one he signs is Jack Nicklaus. Now, can you imagine, you know, luck. I always say luck is the residue of design. I believe you bring luck upon yourself to a large degree. So now who does he sign is the fourth person, the Pope! And then he signs Twiggy. Then he signs Pele. So, I mean this guy. He became, he met me he used to meet me at the airport as a lawyer and he made $22,000 a year, that soon stopped. I had to get a taxi eventually, he became so rich. But anyway, I mean here he manages these people and becomes a multi-millionaire and an icon. And what a brain! Can you imagine? In all the years that he represented me, he never forgot one thing. He had a two by three card in his pockets, a stack like that. And he wrote everything down. And man, did he teach me a lesson? Here's my pad, right here. Here are my things that I write down every single thing. And he said, anybody who tries to remember is a conceited fool. And he said, a blunt pencil is better than a sharp memory. And this guy went on to do and it was so sad the way he ended his life. He went to Cleveland Clinic for a check-up, they gave him a clean bill of health, he had a little thing on his chin here somewhere. So, he goes into this office in New York, and they give him, I forget what it was, to calm you. And he's allergic to it. And he basically dies in the chair eventually, through that he died through that. I mean, you know, it was very sad. So, you never know when you're one tick away. And that's why I say "Be happy, man. Don't make a trouble, you make a double." Be happy. You're only one tick away my man.
Music playing 1:44:40
Professional Golfer and Golf Course Architect
When speaking of Gary Player, it’s common for observers to say something along the lines of: “He’s done more with less than any golfer I’ve ever seen.”
The less is Player’s improbable 5’7″, 160 pounds, his unorthodox method and his hailing from a small country in a remote corner of the world. The more includes nine Major Championships, the modern Grand Slam, over 160 professional victories around the world –including 24 official PGA TOUR victories – and nine Majors on the PGA TOUR Champions. Yet Player, in his forthright way, differs with a reductionist view of his career. “I had a great deal of talent,” he will say, before adding, “but talent alone will only take you so far.”
“The harder you practice, the luckier you get.”
No, with Player there has always been a palpable sense of something extra. Perhaps no golfer has ever craved victory so much for such a long time. “What I have learned about myself,” he wrote in his 1991 autobiography, “is that I am an animal when it comes to achievement and wanting success. There is never enough success for me.”
His peers, who included Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in their primes, knew it. “I don’t think Gary was a great driver of the golf ball,” said Nicklaus. “I don’t think he was a great iron player. He was a good putter, not a great putter. But when he really needed to be, he was a great driver, and a great iron player, and he made the putt when he needed to make it. Gary, as much as anyone I ever saw, has that thing inside him that champions have.”
Gary Player was born November 1, 1935, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the youngest of three children to Harry and Muriel Player. His father was a captain in a gold mine who spent most of his working life 12,000 feet underground. His mother was a well-educated woman who died of cancer when Gary was 8. Player wrote that her loss “has been a means for me, as it were, to settle some unfathomable debt.”
He chose to try to pay it back as a golfer, although he didn’t take up the game until he was 14. He turned professional in 1953 at age 17 and quickly won several times in Africa, Europe and Australia. In 1957, he came to America, and upon seeing how far the game’s best professionals hit the ball, intensified his exercise regimen, weakened his hooker’s grip and set about learning how to carry the ball farther. The next year he won the Kentucky Derby Open and was heartened by a second-place finish at the U.S. Open, where his idol, Ben Hogan, locked him with a stare and said, “Son, you are going to be a great player.”
GARY PLAYER HAS BEEN DUBBED THE BLACK KNIGHT, MR. FITNESS AND THE WORLD’S MOST TRAVELED ATHLETE™.
From there, Player was off. In his trademark all-black outfits (inspired by his lifelong love of westerns) with body trim and biceps bulging from a weight-lifting program and high-fiber diet that were both 30 years ahead of their time, and with a bunker game that is considered the greatest ever developed, he willed himself to victory.
He won the 1959 Open Championship at Muirfield for his first Major, made the 1961 Masters his second and the 1962 PGA at Aronimink his third. At the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive, Player defeated Kel Nagle in an 18-hole playoff to complete the modern Grand Slam by age 29, the youngest ever at the time. He won nine Senior Majors, and became the only golfer in history to complete the Grand Slam on both the Regular and Senior Tours.
His other Majors included the 1972 PGA Championship, the 1968 and 1974 Open Championships, and the 1974 and 1978 Masters. The last is perhaps Player’s proudest victory. He began the final round seven strokes out of the lead. But at age 42, he birdied seven of the final 10 to shoot 64 and win by a stroke.
Player is indisputably the greatest international golfer of all time. He estimates he has spent more than three years of his life in airplanes and traveled some 28 million air kilometers. In every year from 1955 to 1982, Player won at least one sanctioned international tournament, a 27-year streak. He won the World Match Play title five times, the Australian Open seven times and the South African Open 13 times. In winning the 1974 Brazilian Open, he shot the only 59 ever in a national open. In 2016 in golf’s return to the Olympic Games, he captained the South African team, and is the country’s Sportsman of the Century.