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Gary Player

Biography of the golf legend, with career facts and trivia

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Gary Player after winning the British Open in 1974

Gary Player after winning the British Open in 1974.

Brian Morgan/Getty Images
Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus at 2003 Presidents Cup

Old friends Gary Player (left) and Jack Nicklaus were Presidents Cup captains in 2003. Above, they agree to call it a tie as darkness falls on the final day.

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Gary Player was arguably the first "modern" international golfer, traveling around the world from his earliest days as a professional. Along the way he won a lot of tournaments, including a lot of majors.

Date of birth: Nov. 1, 1935
Place of birth: Johannesburg, South Africa
Nickname: "The Black Knight," which arose from Player's habit of wearing all-black on the golf course.

Tour Victories:

• PGA Tour: 24
• Champions Tour: 19
(163 tournament wins worldwide)

Major Championships:

9
• Masters: 1961, 1974, 1978
• U.S. Open: 1965
• British Open: 1959, 1968, 1974
• PGA Championship: 1962, 1972

Awards and Honors:

• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
• Recipient, South African Sportsman of the Century award
• PGA Tour money leader, 1961
• Captain, International team, 2003, 2005, 2007 Presidents Cup

Quote, Unquote:

• Gary Player: "The harder you practice the luckier you get."

• Gary Player: "I've studied golf for almost 50 years now and know a hell of a lot about nothing."

Trivia:

• Gary Player was the only golfer of the 20th Century to win a British Open title in three different decades.

• Player holds the record for most times playing in The Masters. He played 52 Masters tournaments, the last in 2009.

Gary Player Biography:

Gary Player was the first "international" golfer to gain stardom. By "international," we mean non-American and non-European, and we also mean world-traveler.

Player, living up to one of his many monickers as "The International Ambassador of Golf," is estimated to have flown more than 15 million miles traversing the globe to play golf tournaments.

While countryman Bobby Locke preceded him to the PGA Tour, South African Player was the first international star to build a long-term presence on the PGA Tour, while also playing around the world. Along the way, Player won tournaments in 27 consecutive years, and 163 tournaments total worldwide.

Player turned pro in 1953 and joined the PGA Tour in 1957. His first major championship win came at the 1959 British Open, and he was the first non-American to win The Masters when he did so in 1961. The PGA Championship followed in 1962, and when Player won the 1965 U.S. Open he became, at the time, only the third winner of the career grand slam.

Throughout the 1960s, Player was part of golf's "Big Three," a group of superstars that also including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. The three were friendly rivals both on and off the course for the remainder of their careers, and into the 2010s were still playing the Masters Par-3 Contest together. They also served as honorary starters together at The Masters.

The last of Player's nine wins in majors came at the 1978 Masters, where his final-round 64 propelled him from a 7-shot deficit to a 1-stroke victory.

Player won the South African Open 13 times; the Australian Open seven times; and the World Match Play Championship five times. He continued winning after joining the Champions Tour in 1985, including six senior majors.

Off the course, Player worked behind-the-scenes to improve the racial situation in his native South Africa, which for most of his life existed under the shroud of apartheid. He founded The Player Foundation to promote education among his country's underpriveleged, and the foundation built the Blair Atholl Schools in Johannesburg, which has educational facilities for more than 500 students.

Player is a breeder of racehorses and a designer of golf courses, with more than 200 courses around the world. He also has his own wine and apparel labels. Player was also a lifelong fitness buff and promoter of health and fitness initiatives, both inside and outside of golf.

In the 2000-oughts, Player three times served as International team captain in the Presidents Cup. All three times the opposing captain was Nicklaus. Nicklaus and Team USA got the better of it twice, but at the 2003 Presidents Cup the captains agreed to call it a tie and share the cup - a first - as darkness fell on the final day with a tie score and a playoff in progress.

Gary Player was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 as part of its first class.

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