Gary Player

Gary Player DMS, OIG is a South African retired professional golfer who is widely considered to be one of the greatest golfers ever. During his career, Player won nine major championships on the regular tour and nine major championships on the Champions Tour. At the age of 29, Player won the 1965 U.S. Open and became the only non-American to win all four majors in a career, known as the career Grand Slam. At the time, he was the youngest player to do this, though Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods subsequently broke this record. Player became only the third golfer in history to win the Career Grand Slam, following Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen, and only Nicklaus and Woods have performed the feat since. He won 163 professional tournaments on six continents over seven decades and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Nicknamed the Black Knight, Mr. Fitness, and the International Ambassador of Golf, Player is also a renowned golf course architect with more than 400 design projects on five continents throughout the world. He has also authored or co-written 36 golf books.
His business interests are exclusively represented by the Gary Player Group, which includes Gary Player Design, Player Real Estate, The Player Foundation, Gary Player Academies, and Black Knight Enterprises, aspects of which include licensing, events, publishing, wine, apparel and memorabilia.
GPG operates the Gary Player Foundation, which has a primary objective of promoting underprivileged education around the world. In 1983, The Player Foundation established the Blair Atholl Schools in Johannesburg, South Africa, which has educational facilities for more than 500 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. In 2013 it celebrated its 30th Anniversary with charity golf events in London, Palm Beach, Shanghai and Cape Town, bringing its total of funds raised to over US$60 million.

Background and family

Player was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the youngest of Harry and Muriel Player's three children. When he was eight years old his mother died from cancer. Although his father was often away from home working in the gold mines, he did manage to take a loan in order to buy a set of clubs for Gary to begin playing golf. The Virginia Park golf course in Johannesburg is where Player first began his love affair with golf. At the age of 14, Player played his first round of golf and parred the first three holes. At age 16, he announced that he would become number one in the world. At age 17, he became a professional golfer.
Player married wife Vivienne Verwey on 19 January 1957, four years after turning professional. Together they have six children: Jennifer, Marc, Wayne, Michele, Theresa and Amanda. He also has 22 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchild. During the early days of his career Player would travel from tournament to tournament with his wife, six children, their nanny and a tutor in tow.
His eldest son, Marc Player, owns and operates Black Knight International, which exclusively represents Player in all his commercial activities, including all endorsements, licensing, merchandising, golf course design, and real estate development.
Gary Player is the brother of Ian Player, a notable South African environmental educator and conservationist who saved the white rhino from extinction.
Gary Player is a supporter of Arsenal and Barcelona.

Regular PGA Tour career

Player is one of the most successful golfers in history, ranking third in total professional wins, with at least 164, and tied for fourth in major championship victories with nine. Along with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus he is often referred to as one of "The Big Three" golfers of his era – from the late 1950s through the late 1970s – when golf boomed in the United States and around the world and was greatly encouraged by expanded television coverage. Along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods, he is one of only five players to win golf's "career Grand Slam". He completed the Grand Slam in 1965 at the age of twenty-nine. Player was the second multiple majors winner from South Africa, following Bobby Locke, then was followed by Ernie Els, and Retief Goosen.
Player competed regularly on the U.S. based PGA Tour from the late 1950s. He led the Tour money list in 1961, and went on to accumulate 24 career Tour titles. He also played an exceptionally busy schedule all over the world, and he has been called the world's most traveled athlete. Player has logged more than in air travel – in 2005 it was estimated that he had "probably flown further…than any athlete in history".
He has more victories than anyone else in the South African Open and the Australian Open. He held the record for most victories in the World Match Play Championship, with five wins, from 1973 until 1991 when this feat was equalled by Seve Ballesteros, finally losing his share of the record in 2004, when Ernie Els won the event for the sixth time. Player was in the top ten of Mark McCormack's world golf rankings from their inception in 1968 until 1981; he was ranked second in 1969, 1970 and 1972, each time to Jack Nicklaus.
He was the only player in the 20th century to win the British Open in three different decades. His first win, as a 23-year-old in 1959 at Muirfield, came after he double-bogeyed the last hole. In 1974, he became one of the few golfers in history to win two major championships in the same season. Player last won the Masters in 1978, when he started seven strokes behind 54-hole leader Hubert Green entering the final round, and won by one shot with birdies at seven of the last 10 holes for a back nine 30 and a final round 64. One week later, Player again came from seven strokes back in the final round to win the Tournament of Champions. In 1984, at the age of 48 Player nearly became the oldest ever major champion, finishing in second place behind Lee Trevino at the PGA Championship. And in gusty winds at the 1998 Masters, he became the oldest golfer ever to make the cut, breaking the 25-year-old record set by Sam Snead. Player credited this feat to his dedication to the concept of diet, health, practice and golf fitness.
Being South African, Player never played in the Ryder Cup in which American and European golfers compete against each other. Regarding the event, Player remarked, "The things I have seen in the Ryder Cup have disappointed me. You are hearing about hatred and war." He was no longer an eligible player when the Presidents Cup was established to give international players the opportunity to compete in a similar event, but he was non-playing captain of the International Team for the Presidents Cup in 2003, which was held on a course he designed, The Links at Fancourt, in George, South Africa. After 2003 ended in a tie, he was reappointed as captain for the 2005 Presidents Cup, and his team lost to the Americans 15.5 to 18.5. Both Player and Jack Nicklaus were appointed to captain their respective teams again in 2007 in Canada; the United States won.


In 2000, Player was voted "Sportsman of the Century" in South Africa. In 1966, he was awarded the Bob Jones Award, the highest honour given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. The "Gary Player – A Global Journey" exhibition was launched by the Hall of Fame as of March 2006.
In 2000, Golf Digest magazine ranked Player as the eighth greatest golfer of all time.
In 2002, Player was voted as the second greatest global golfer of all time by a panel of international media, golf magazines and fellow professionals conducted by the leading Golf Asia Magazine.
On 10 April 2009, he played for the last time in the Masters, where he was playing for his record 52nd time – every year since 1957 except for 1973, when he was recovering from surgery. After Nicklaus and Palmer, he was the last of the Big Three to retire from this tournament, which is a testament to his longevity.
At age 73 on 23 July 2009, Player competed in the Senior British Open Championship at Sunningdale Golf Club, 53 years after capturing his maiden European Tour victory at the Berkshire venue.
Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters announced on 5 July 2011 that Player had been invited to join Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter. The Big Three were reunited in this capacity starting with the 2012 tournament.
In July 2013, he became the oldest athlete ever to pose nude in ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue to inspire people to keep looking after themselves throughout their lives whatever their age.

Golf course designing

Gary Player Design have executed over 400 projects in 36 countries on five continents. The company offers three different design brands: Gary Player Design, Player Design, and Black Knight Design.
With golf accepted back into the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Gary Player Design was selected among the finalists of an official RFP in early December 2011.

The Player Foundation

The Player Foundation was established in 1983 by Marc Player and began as an effort to provide education, nutrition, medical care and athletic activities, for a small community of disadvantaged children living on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. The Player Foundation has since blossomed into an organisation that circles the globe bringing aid to underprivileged children and impoverished communities. Since its establishment, The Player Foundation has donated over $65 million to the support of children's charities, the betterment of impoverished communities and the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the world.
The Foundation is primarily funded by donations, grants and the four Gary Player Invitational events presented through Black Knight International and staged in the United States, China, Europe and South Africa annually. The Gary Player Invitational is a pro-am tournament that pairs celebrities and professional golfers from the PGA and Champions Tours with businessmen and other local participants. The proceeds of these tournaments and other special events provide funding for an ever-expanding number of institutions around the world, including the Blair Atholl Schools in South Africa, the Pleasant City Elementary School in Palm Beach, the Masizame Children's Shelter in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, and AIDS infected children in Baoshan, a drug-infested city located on the China-Burma border.
Proceeds from the Gary Player Invitational have also been donated to The Lord's Taverners in the UK and the following organisations in South Africa; Wildlands Conservation Trust, Twilight Children, and Bana Development Centre.


In 1966, he espoused support for the apartheid policies of Hendrik Verwoerd in his book Grand Slam Golf, stating: "I must say now, and clearly, that I am of the South Africa of Verwoerd and apartheid... a nation which... is the product of its instinct and ability to maintain civilised values and standards amongst the alien barbarians. The African may well believe in witchcraft and primitive magic, practise ritual murder and polygamy; his wealth is in cattle". Activists publicly demonstrated against Player's espousal of apartheid. Perhaps most famously activists protested against Player at the 1969 PGA Championship. Australian activists also strongly protested against Player. In 1971 there were several threats to protest against Player at tournaments though they never came to fruition. Years later, in October 1974, Australian activists screamed at Player "Go home racist," as he was lining up a putt on the 72nd hole in a tournament he had a chance to win.
However, in a 1987 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Player disavowed the system of apartheid, stating, "We have a terrible system in's almost a cancerous disease. I'm happy to say it's being eliminated....we've got to get rid of this apartheid." In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Player discussed his early support for apartheid stating that the South African Government had "pulled the wool over our eyes" and that the people were "brainwashed" into supporting these policies.
In July 2007, a media controversy emerged over his statements at The Open Championship golf tournament about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in golf. He was the first golfer to call for mandatory drug testing on all tours around the world. Subsequently, the PGA Tour introduced a formal policy.
He has been a pioneer of diet, health and fitness although he upset the Atkins Diet organisation by disagreeing with their "all protein" approach.
He was branded a "traitor" by South African Nationalist Government supporters for inviting and bringing the black tennis player Arthur Ashe and the black golfer Lee Elder to play in South Africa.
Player has hosted the Nelson Mandela Invitational golf tournament since 2000. In October 2007, further media controversy arose about his involvement in the 2002 design of a golf course in Burma. As a result of the political uprisings in Burma, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund withdrew from the fundraising golf tournament because of Player's unsubstantiated business links with the country. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu accepted Player's position and statements on Burma. Player refused to withdraw as he and his son Marc personally built the golf event from scratch and issued a statement rebutting these claims via his website. The event is now successfully annually staged at the Sun City Resort as the Gary Player Invitational.
In June 2016, in an interview with, Player branded as 'laughable' a report released by The R&A and USGA which said that driving distance in golf was only increasing minimally. He warned of a 'tsunami coming' due the governing bodies' failure to address issues surrounding new golf technology. After the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Player reiterated these comments, taking to Twitter to say he was 'sad' to see the Old Course at St Andrews 'brought to her knees' after Ross Fisher broke the course record on a day of very low scoring during the final round.
Player has occasionally been accused of cheating, particularly in the 1974 Open; he has strongly denied the accusations. Later, at a skins game in Arizona in 1983, Tom Watson accused him of cheating by moving a leaf from behind his ball.
The green jacket is reserved for Augusta National members and golfers who win the Masters Tournament. Jackets are kept on club grounds, and taking them off the premises is forbidden. The exception is for the winner, who can take it home and return it to the club the following year. Player, who became the tournament's first international winner in 1961, said he did not know that and he packed the jacket and took it to his home in South Africa.

Distinctions and honours

PGA Tour wins (24)

No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of
120 Apr 1958Kentucky Derby Open−14 3 strokes Chick Harbert, Ernie Vossler
23 Jul 1959The Open Championship−4 2 strokes Fred Bullock, Flory Van Donck
329 Jan 1961Lucky International Open−12 2 strokes George Bayer, Don Whitt
426 Mar 1961Sunshine Open Invitational−15 1 stroke Arnold Palmer
510 Apr 1961Masters Tournament−8 1 stroke Charles Coe, Arnold Palmer
622 Jul 1962PGA Championship−2 1 stroke Bob Goalby
713 Jan 1963San Diego Open Invitational−14 1 stroke Tony Lema
89 Mar 1964Pensacola Open−14 Playoff Miller Barber, Arnold Palmer
931 May 1964500 Festival Open Invitation−11 1 stroke Doug Sanders, Art Wall Jr.
1021 Jun 1965U.S. Open+2 Playoff Kel Nagle
1113 Jul 1968The Open Championship +1 2 strokes Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus
1220 Apr 1969Tournament of Champions−4 2 strokes Lee Trevino
135 Apr 1970Greater Greensboro Open−13 2 strokes Miller Barber
1421 Mar 1971Greater Jacksonville Open−7 Playoff Hal Underwood
1528 Mar 1971National Airlines Open Invitational−14 2 strokes Lee Trevino
1626 Mar 1972Greater New Orleans Open−9 1 stroke Dave Eichelberger, Jack Nicklaus
176 Aug 1972PGA Championship +1 2 strokes Tommy Aaron, Jim Jamieson
189 Sep 1973Southern Open−10 1 stroke Forrest Fezler
1914 Apr 1974Masters Tournament −10 2 strokes Dave Stockton, Tom Weiskopf
2026 May 1974Danny Thomas Memphis Classic−15 2 strokes Lou Graham, Hubert Green
2113 Jul 1974The Open Championship −2 4 strokes Peter Oosterhuis
229 Apr 1978Masters Tournament −11 1 stroke Rod Funseth, Hubert Green,
Tom Watson
2316 Apr 1978MONY Tournament of Champions −7 2 strokes Andy North, Lee Trevino
2423 Apr 1978Houston Open−18 1 stroke Andy Bean

PGA Tour playoff record
11958Dallas Open Invitational Julius Boros, John McMullin,
Sam Snead
Snead won with birdie on first extra hole
21959Memphis Open Al Balding, Don WhittWhitt won with par on second extra hole
Balding eliminated with birdie on first hole
31961American Golf Classic Jay HebertLost to birdie on second extra hole
41962Masters Tournament Dow Finsterwald, Arnold PalmerPalmer won 18-hole playoff;
Palmer: −4,
Player: −1,
Finsterwald: +5
51962Memphis Open Invitational Lionel Hebert, Gene LittlerHebert won with birdie on first extra hole
61963Palm Springs Golf Classic Jack NicklausLost 18-hole playoff;
Nicklaus: −7,
Player: +1
71964Pensacola Open Miller Barber, Arnold PalmerWon 18-hole playoff;
Player: −1,
Palmer: E,
Barber: +2
81965U.S. Open Kel NagleWon 18-hole playoff;
Player: +1,
Nagle: +3
91967Oklahoma City Open Invitational Miller BarberLost to birdie on third extra hole
101968Azalea Open Invitational Steve ReidLost to birdie on second extra hole
111971Greater Jacksonville Open Hal UnderwoodWon with par on second extra hole
121971Kemper Open Dale Douglass, Lee Trevino,
Tom Weiskopf
Weiskopf won with birdie on first extra hole
131975MONY Tournament of Champions Al GeibergerLost to birdie on first extra hole

European Tour wins (4)

No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of
16 Aug 1972PGA Championship+1 2 strokes Tommy Aaron, Jim Jamieson
214 Apr 1974Masters Tournament−10 2 strokes Dave Stockton, Tom Weiskopf
313 Jul 1974The Open Championship−2 4 strokes Peter Oosterhuis
49 Apr 1978Masters Tournament −11 1 stroke Rod Funseth, Hubert Green,
Tom Watson

European Tour playoff record
11974Dunlop Masters Bernard GallacherLost to birdie on first extra hole
21976Penfold PGA Championship Neil Coles, Eamonn DarcyColes won with par on third extra hole
Player eliminated by par on first hole

Southern Africa wins (63)

Note: Many of these wins were part of a formal South Africa Tour or Sunshine Circuit.
No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of
13 Nov 1974Qantas Australian Open−11 3 strokes Norman Wood
215 Nov 1981Tooth Gold Coast Classic−13 4 strokes Bob Shearer

PGA Tour of Australasia playoff record
11979Victorian Open Rodger Davis, Geoff ParslowDavis won with birdie on second extra hole

Other Australasian wins (17)

No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of
123 Nov 1985Quadel Seniors Classic−11 3 strokes Jim Ferree, Ken Still
216 Feb 1986General Foods PGA Seniors' Championship−12 2 strokes Lee Elder
318 May 1986United Hospitals Senior Golf Championship−4 1 stroke Bob Charles, Lee Elder
41 Jun 1986Denver Post Champions of Golf−8 Playoff Roberto De Vicenzo
514 Jun 1987Mazda Senior Tournament Players Championship−8 1 stroke Bruce Crampton, Chi-Chi Rodríguez
612 Jul 1987U.S. Senior Open−14 6 strokes Doug Sanders
713 Sep 1987PaineWebber World Seniors Invitational−9 Playoff Bob Charles
814 Feb 1988General Foods PGA Seniors' Championship −4 3 strokes Chi-Chi Rodríguez
928 Feb 1988Aetna Challenge−9 1 stroke Dave Hill
1026 Jun 1988Silver Pages Classic−13 Playoff Harold Henning
118 Aug 1988U.S. Senior Open E Playoff Bob Charles
1211 Sep 1988GTE North Classic−15 2 strokes Dave Hill
1310 Sep 1989GTE North Classic −9 1 stroke Billy Casper, Al Geiberger,
Joe Jimenez
148 Oct 1989RJR Championship−3 1 stroke Rives McBee
1515 Apr 1990PGA Seniors' Championship −7 2 strokes Chi-Chi Rodríguez
163 Feb 1991Royal Caribbean Classic−13 2 strokes Bob Charles, Chi-Chi Rodríguez,
Lee Trevino
1719 Sep 1993Bank One Senior Classic−14 3 strokes Dale Douglass
1824 Sep 1995Bank One Classic −5 2 strokes Jack Kiefer
1923 Aug 1998Northville Long Island Classic−12 1 stroke Walter Hall, J. C. Snead

Senior PGA Tour playoff record
11986Denver Post Champions of Golf Roberto De VicenzoWon with par on fourth extra hole
21987PaineWebber World Seniors Invitational Bob CharlesWon with birdie on first extra hole
31988Silver Pages Classic Harold HenningWon with birdie on first extra hole
41988U.S. Senior Open Bob CharlesWon 18-hole playoff;
Player: −4,
Charles: −2
51990Bell Atlantic Classic Dale DouglassLost to par on second extra hole
61996FHP Health Care Classic Walter MorganLost to birdie on first extra hole
71997Senior British Open John BlandWon with birdie on second extra hole

*See "Other senior wins" below for Player's wins in the Senior British Open.

European Senior Tour wins (3)

No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of
115 Aug 1993Belfast Telegraph Irish Senior Masters−8 2 strokes José María Roca
227 Jul 1997Senior British Open*−10 Playoff John Bland
33 Aug 1997Shell Wentworth Senior Masters−9 1 stroke José María Cañizares, David Creamer

European Senior Tour playoff record
11997Senior British Open John BlandWon with birdie on second extra hole

Other senior wins (8)

* The Senior British Open was retroactively recognised by the PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour as a senior major in 2018.

Major championships

Wins (9)

1Defeated Nagle in 18-hole playoff; Player 71, Nagle 74.

Results timeline

CUT = missed the halfway cut

WD = withdrew

"T" indicates a tie for a place.


CUT = missed the halfway cut

"T" indicates a tie for a place

Senior major championships

Wins (9)

1Defeated Charles in 18-hole playoff; Player, Charles.

Results timeline

1The Senior Open Championship was not a Champions Tour major until 2003, though it was on the European Seniors Tour. Player won the event three times prior to this recognition.
CUT = Missed the half-way cut

NYF = Tournament not yet founded

"T" = tied

Team appearances