THE EVENING was preceded by happy birthday belated song as one of South Africa’s greatest Son’s Gary “Knight” Player, was inducted into the Samsung South African Hall of Fame.
With family alongside this Golfing giant, the (82) Player told guests-
local and international that sport is the only way to break racism. These words were echoed at Sun City on Monday evening.
He becomes the country’s third golfer inducted alongside four-time major winner Bobby Locke and two-time women’s major champion Sally Little, who had tears of joy streaming down during her speech ‘I love you Gary and your wife’.
Little also pointed out the she was convinced by Gary to join Golf at a very tender age.
At the age of 29, Player won the 1965 US Open and became the only non-American to win all four majors, known as the career Grand Slam.
He became only the third golfer in history to win a career Grand Slam, following Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have performed the feat since.
Player has won 165 tournaments on six continents over six decades and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Player, who operates Knight International, says he draws inspiration from the likes of Mandela, Mother Teresa and former US Pres Winston Churchill, who he said cheerfully used to ‘cry’.
“Coming from poor background at times felt like I could die but through hardwork, perseverance and
the will today, I managed to pull through, and today I speak to over billions of people worldwide through Golf,” says Gary, whose name means drawing strength from God and resembles a Spear.
“If Mandela could be chained for 27 years’ for not committing any crime and came out to preach Peace and Reconciliation, what could stand on my way to become what I wanted to be?” he asked without mincing any of his words.
Having dined with Kings and Queens and Presidents, Gary touched the raw nerve when he declared consciously that “if Chris Hani would have been alive, he would have been a President”, much to the applause.
“Apartheid brainwashed us during our times and racism is still prevalent in our societies, sadly.”
Later in the evening he tweed: “None of my victories, accomplishments or success would have been possible without your love & support. Almost 61 years Viv, I love you.”
During the fundraising only three pieces were auctioned to the tune of millions.
Group Chief Strategy and Operations Officer at Sun International Rob Collins says, as the group they’re honoured for having played a role in Gary Player’s induction in South Africa.
“Gary is an accomplished ambassador for not only Golf but for sport. As an inductee this brings gravitas to the Hall of Fame, considering it does not only focus on sport but Science and Technology as well,” he told this reporter, exclusively.
Asked if it’s high time he should be honoured as ‘Dr Player’, Collins said now that you inquiring about it, we think universities we work with as a company, should consider that. The same has been conferred to a very good of his Jabu Mabuza, who is now a Doctor.
NW Premier Supra Mahumapelo –who was invited did not show up. But Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt and other world Golf players’
graced this special occasion.
On the Nedbank Golf Challenge beginning from November 9 to 12 at the Sun City hosted by Gary Player Golf Course, Collins said although he’s disappointed with the withdrawal of two key players due to injury, the tournament organisers are ready to bring out a spectacle for the eager fans.
“The green carpets will be rolled out for the players, he said, with a huge crack of a laugh.