Outside of the USA, you could argue that South Africa is the best golfing country on the planet. While there can be something to be said about a few other nations, it is hard to argue with a country that bred Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Bobby Locke along with other tour winning players. But easily the unquestioned best golfer to ever come out of South Africa is none other than Gary Player. Player is a true legend in the sport of golf and here I will take you back through his career and why he is considered an all-time great.
Gary Player was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and actually got started in golf far later in life than most future pro golfers did. In fact, Player didn’t play his first round of golf until he was 14 years old, and immediately well in love with the sport (and was quite good at it too). By the age of 17 (a mere three years after his first round) Player would become a professional golfer. Player got married at 19 years old and had six children with his wife and, early in his career, actually traveled from tournament to tournament with his wife and six children.
And this travel from tournament to tournament wasn’t just across the states like most golfers do, far from it. While most golfers may only play in and travel for the largely US-based PGA Tour, Player also regularly played on the Sunshine Tour, which is the mens pro golf tour in South Africa. As a result, Player played an extremely busy schedule throughout the bulk of his career and he is reported to have traveled over 15 million miles throughout his career, making him the most traveled athlete of all time.
And despite this challenging schedule and long travel, Player will go down as one of the best golfers of not only his generation, but of all time. Player, who only retired a couple of years ago, has one of the most impressive resumes of any golfer in history. His nine major wins put him in a tie for fourth on the all-time list and he is one of only five golfers to win each of the four majors.
In addition to his success in the majors, he had immense success in other tournaments as well. His 165 professional wins make him one of the winningest golfers in history and he won tournaments all over the world. He was also well known for his great physique and, in 2013, appeared in the ESPN Body Issue at the age of 73, making him the oldest athlete to ever appear in the magazine’s body issue.
Since retiring, Player has also become a world renowned golf course designer and has had his hands in the design of more than 300 courses in 25 different countries. Player continues to give back to the sport he loves most, long after retiring from the game. While he may be retired and be over 80 years old, the golf world will never forget what he did for the game or his legacy.