Recently, Aaron Marks – sports director with WSEA-FM Sports Radio 100.3 “The Team” in Myrtle Beach, and host of “The Drive with Aaron Marks” (airing 6-9 a.m. weekdays) – enjoyed a comprehensive interview with one of golf’s living legends: “The Black Knight,” Gary Player. Mr. Player’s 165 professional wins include nine major championships – three of which came at Augusta National Golf Club in The Masters. His lone Myrtle Beach-area signature golf course design resides at Blackmoor Golf Club in Murrells Inlet, S.C. – one of 22 Prime Times Signature Courses on the Grand Strand.
Part 1 of our 2-part written recap of this interview session focuses on Mr. Player’s thoughts on The Masters, and why the tournament is so special to him; Augusta National’s recent acceptance of women into its membership ranks; and Mr. Player’s thoughts on fitness and the need for America’s youth to embrace it. The interview was conducted on April 9, 2014 – the transcripts of which were produced from audio provided courtesy of WSEA-FM in Myrtle Beach.
Aaron Marks: Talk about kids in this country – you’ve been very outspoken about that, talking about helping them. And you’re also very much into golf fitness. Can you talk about your driving force and everything you do with kids in the US?
Gary Player: Well first of all Aaron, you know, you live in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America. You’ve got the best farmers, you’ve got the best food … and you’re the most unhealthy nation in the world, and the worst eaters on the planet. I mean, it’s just so sad to think – I mean, my son – who is a citizen and lives over here – is a type 1 diabetic. So I go to some of the events and some of these doctors are telling me now that diabetes is an epidemic, and there are going to be 100 million people with diabetes in 40-50 years time … 24 percent of the youth are obese, and my big drive is to get these wonderful young men in America to start taking pride in this great country and really contributing to it, and getting in shape and getting a good education and doing something for the country. And I don’t know how you’re going to be able to save (with the) amount of money (spent) on medicine. Everybody’s on medicine, everybody’s getting sick, 1 out of 2 men getting cancer, 1 out of 3 women getting cancer, diabetes, heart attacks. People don’t want to exercise, they don’t want to look after themselves. And I tell people, “You don’t have to go to a gym … you don’t have to go on all these fancy diets. Just cut your food in half, walk every day for 40 minutes and you’re going to be fine.”
Aaron Marks: I was going to ask you, Mr. Player, so that’s your advice: eating less. If folks in the US just ate less and got out and did something active like walking for 40 minutes, that’s it, it’s that simple.
Gary Player: You’re not going to get … this morning I was in the gym for an hour and a half and I did 1,300 sit ups.
Aaron Marks: Wow.
Gary Player: I squatted with 250 pounds, I ran on the treadmill … I’m nearly 80, my heart score resting is 40, my cholesterol is 150, I don’t take any pills and my blood pressure is 110 over 70 … I just really look after myself because health – your body is a holy temple, the greatest gift you have from God is your body, your health. But I don’t know: we don’t teach children in the schools, parents don’t worry, they see their children getting fat and they don’t do anything. And what is going to happen, they’re going to die early – it is as simple as that, which is so, so sad when you’re blessed – you’re blessed to live in this country. All these young people, you better say a prayer everyday of your life that you live in this country and you better work hard if you want to keep it a great country.
Aaron Marks: Absolutely, well said. We’re talking with Gary Player. His Invitational Charity series of events is going on in 4 different countries. His first event (was) staged in Augusta, Georgia after the Masters (in April 2014). And it’s all centered around everything we’re talking about – helping children, fitness, golf fitness and everything associated with it. And Mr. Player, talking about Augusta, what makes this tournament so special in your eyes? We get different opinion this whole week as we build up to the event, but as someone who has won the event and has played the event so many times, what makes Augusta so special?
Gary Player: Well, first of all they’re very fortunate to play in the same place every year, so they know what to cater for if they make any mistakes or look for improvements. Secondly you have Bobby Jones, this marvelous golfer and marvelous gentleman associated with the tournament, and then that great man President Eisenhower who was associated closely with the tournament. It’s the first major of the year, the flowers are out, everybody of importance in the golf world is right there attending it. It’s an exciting tournament every year, full of drama, all the screaming and yelling of the people, the cheering in those valleys on the golf course … and there’s the green jacket, and the champions dinner to which only the champions go with the chairman of the club. You drive up Magnolia Lane there, as I drive there I get out of the car … I played there a record 52 times, won it 3 times, made the most number of consecutive cuts 23 times, and the top 10 14 times – wow, you know. I just get out of the car, walk up there, and say a little prayer of thanks that I’ve been so blessed.
Aaron Marks: We’re talking with Mr. Gary Player about everything going on in the world of golf. And Mr. Player, something that Augusta has taken to that’s been a big initiative is growing the game of golf with women. Not only with children but also with women in the game, and introducing them in a big way, and getting some of their first female members. That’s been a big topic of discussion here recently: talk about the female membership now available at Augusta National Golf Club and what that’s doing for the growth of the game of golf.
Gary Player: Well, when they were asking all the players whether they should admit women to the club, there was great silence except from Tiger Woods and myself. We were both outspoken and said, “Yes, they should.” And my theory was, you’ve got a billion people that watch this great tournament, of which at least 500 million – half a billion people are ladies. And they support the tournament, so the least we can do is have the courtesy to honor them and make them realize that they are also welcome. You must remember Augusta is a private club, and it is also a public club in that you have this tournament where the public comes and attends the tournament and supports it, so it’s a very different situation than a pure man’s club or a pure woman’s club. It’s a mixture. So I’m delighted to see, and with Billy Payne as the new chairman at Augusta, he believes change is the price of survival. The previous chairman (Hootie Johnson) – wow, he was tough, he was adamant that no woman would be a member, and I’m delighted to see they’ve done that now. After all, we do live in the 21st century.