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 designed golf course resides at Blackmoor Golf Club in Murrells Inlet, S.C. – one of 22 Prime Times Signature Courses on the Grand Strand.
Part 2 of our 2-part written recap of this interview session features Mr. Player’s thoughts on Tiger Woods and the road ahead in his recovery from back surgery. 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: Speaking of Tiger Woods … talk about where he’s at (with his recovery from back surgery), what you think this is going to do for him and his quest moving forward, trying to take down Jack (Nicklaus’ record of majors wins) but has really had a struggle the past couple years.
Gary Player: Well, first of all it’s unlucky that he’s got to have this back surgery just at the time of the beginning of the year when the majors are coming up now, because you know time runs out very quickly, and it’s very exciting to see him trying to better Jack’s record. You know we need champions in the game, and he brings a lot of people and big media to the event. One thing I never understood, could never understand … He was wining 1 out of every 4 tournaments, he was the most – he was the most talented man that ever played golf, and I thought he’d win 20 majors or more, and he would have. But after he won the US Open by 15 shots he goes on those lessons, and his game goes down hill, and I never understood that. What was he looking for? If he stayed away from all the coaches and just played golf, he would have – no question in my mind he would have won between 20 and 24 major championships. But that’s history now. We got to hope he gets well quickly and gets back on his game, and he’s got a big challenge ahead. But let me tell you, this man is so talented, you never know what could happen. Only God knows if he’s going to win more majors or not, but he’s got a big challenge on his hands.
Aaron Marks: Mr. Player, one thing I did want to ask with our final question here, going back to your time on the PGA Tour and your travels. You made the decision – you’ve got 6 children, you’re still very involved with them, your son runs one of your companies right now, but they traveled with you. Them, a tutor, a nanny … everybody traveled with you, everywhere you went to play golf, on all the continents all around the world. Was that at all a decision you ever had to think about? Tell me about the decision to constantly have your family with you, something that a lot of these players today don’t do.
Gary Player: Well, I sit back and shudder and I say, “Can you imagine telling any young guy what I did, traveling all the way from South Africa with 6 children, a nanny, and my wife? And traveling on a constellation plane, no jets, flying at 27,000 feet where the storms are, and taking 40 hours to get here, stopping 4 times?” Whereas now, you get on a Delta or South African Airways and you fly nonstop from Atlanta … It’s like a breeze now. And in those days, traveling with 6 children – can you imagine week to week with 6 children, no disposable diapers, no courtesy cars to meet you, no free telephone calls? Not like today, it was a different deal. And the first prize in the tournament was $2,000 to $3,000. I had to win the tournament to break even. (Laughing).
Aaron Marks: It’s crazy, back in the day. And you did it against all odds.
Gary Player: I think I when I won at Augusta 3 times, and I won $20,000, $40,000, $80,000 … and today they get $1.4 million. Well, quite honestly we didn’t play for the money (back then). I wanted to try and be the best and Arnold (Palmer) wanted to be the best and Jack (Nicklaus) wanted to be the best. We wanted to beat each other. And between us we won 56 major championships on the regular and senior tours, and we went all over the world and we competed against each other with respect, and we wanted to beach each other really badly and it was a great time in life. So money wasn’t a big criteria – we wanted to play and promote the game of golf. We didn’t get a million dollars to fly to Australia or somewhere, but we went and we traveled to all corners of the globe and we’ve made a lot of friends and it’s been fantastic. And you know, here I am nearly 80 and yesterday I shot 11 under my age and I average 70 still.
Aaron Marks: Wow, that is spectacular. He has traveled over 15 million miles playing golf around the globe, he’s still got his company, Black Knight International, which includes Gary Player Design, Player Real Estate, the Player Foundation, the Gary Player Academies and Black Knight Enterprise. Mr. Gary Player giving us a few minutes today. Mr. Player, so appreciative of your time … best of luck with everything going on with the foundation and everything you’re doing for the kids. Thanks so much.
Gary Player: Thank you, all my love to your listeners. Take care.