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October 10, 2020

Gary Player

Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, USA

Aronimink Golf Club

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, or good morning. Welcome back to the 2020 KPMG Women's PGA Championship here at Aronimink Golf Club. We're very pleased to be joined by two-time PGA champion, World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player. Gary, thanks for joining us.

Your relationship with Aronimink goes back 50-plus years, so I want to ask you a little bit about 1962, but what type of memories come in your mind as you drive up the driveway here this morning and return, and what do you recollect from '62?

GARY PLAYER: Well, first of all, I think there's a similarity here in my approach to the golf club. When you go to Augusta they've got Magnolia Drive or Lane, and I always like to walk through as a sense of gratitude having won the Masters three times, and then when I drive in this entrance here, I used to walk here a lot, as well. They have a beautiful drive.

This club is a very special golf club, Aronimink. The whole ambiance of the place, the membership are wonderful members, and it's a terrific golf course. This is a really fine test of golf, men and women, major championships here.

Coming back here now, 58 years later than when I won it, first of all, most people are dead. I'm 85 now and all my golfing friends are gone, so I'm very grateful to be standing here and very strong and fit. I had a putt here the other day, the exact putt I had when I won, when I beat Bob Goalby, my friend, and I had the exact putt and I said, how lucky am I. Gratitude is a terribly important thing in life. How lucky am I to be here putting the same putt I did 58 years ago.

The ladies, I love ladies golf. I'm a big fan of golf with women. We actually in our Gary Player Foundation days, we were the first to really bring the women in, 50 percent women, 50 percent men, to try and help them get a little cash to go along the way.

If you look at the way these women play, extremely well, extremely well, and we need more young people in the world today to get off drugs, to get off the streets and to get away from gangs, and golf is a game that we've got to encourage young people to participate.

Our leaders in golf are doing a wonderful job in enhancing this and getting people to play. I cannot tell you how impressed I am having watched these women personally and played with them in these events. They can really play.

Q. Since KPMG came on board with the PGA of America to partner with the LPGA, they've gone to places such as Olympia Fields and Hazeltine. They're heading to Congressional, we're at Aronimink this week. You enjoy watching the women's game; what's it like to watch the women compete at these iconic venues?

GARY PLAYER: Well, first of all, they're all, as you so aptly say, they are iconic venues, always a pleasure to play or see them on television. I play here a lot, particularly the last six months I've been visiting this almost once every two or three weeks. No, they're very fortunate to play such great golf courses on these major championships. It's a great test of golf, and I know they leave here always learning something on all these golf courses. You know, they're steeped in tradition and history, with the men's U.S. Open and PGAs have been taking place, so it's wonderful to see the ladies playing these same golf courses, as well, because it's going to improve their game. When you leave here, you really learn something about shot making and using the mind.

You know, we're so inundated today, all we hear about is long hitting. Golf is not a game of long hitting. Yes, it's an asset, but wins golf tournaments are special minds. Special. In my mind I've only met about five players that I say have a special mind and who putt well. Putting, if you look at Tiger Woods, you if you look at Mickelson, they were not good drivers of the ball, but they were No. 1 and 2 in the world. Putting and a good mind are the ingredients that make you a champion.

Q. Jennifer Kupcho won the Augusta National Women's Amateur last year at the inaugural event. What impressed you the most about Jennifer last year? She's up on the board here this week.

GARY PLAYER: Well, Jennifer's score was absolutely unbelievable. I was so thrilled when I saw that because I was a bit scared. You know, Augusta is a very tough golf course, particularly the greens, and I thought, well, will the ladies really be able to handle this. They absolutely shocked me, pleasantly. To see the scores they did was just so good for golf, and I was very proud of Augusta because, you know, they have a set of rules, they live by a set of rules, which is fine, but you know, they never had women as members, and now they do. You never saw any other events sort of taking place to the degree that they should have.

Now you have the young people playing there before Augusta. Marvelous. Can you imagine a young man, a young boy playing at Augusta in a competition and then the women to go to this place that we all thought was really only for men's competitions, whether it was right or wrong in our thoughts is debatable, and then Augusta has this tournament for the ladies. I was so proud of them, and everybody was elated.

Q. You were talking about fitness and distance. You have said one day there will be a player that hits the ball 400 yards, and it looks like that time is coming now. I suppose with women we'll have a woman that hits the ball 330 yards. Is that the way to play golf? Is that the future?

GARY PLAYER: What a good question. I've always been a man who -- I've tried to be a man of vision because Winston Churchill was my great hero, in spite of some of his faults. But he always said, You've got to have vision. And when I've been coming out with statements, they all said, well, this is ridiculous. When I was talking about weight training when I started in 1944, they all said I was mad, you can't play golf with weights. Thank goodness Tiger Woods came along to enhance it, and now Bryson DeChambeau has come along, another level.

But we're in our infancy. This is what the leaders have got to understand. I used to say they'll hit the ball 400 yards. I don't know how far the ball can actually go, but if it can go 500, somebody will come along and hit the ball close to 500. In fact, there are golfers right now that can drive the first green at Augusta. The long driving competitions today, I think the last time was 468 yards. We haven't seen anything yet -- we've never had a big man play golf yet.

I played with Justin Tuck, the football player, the other day. He is built like Tarzan. When he knows how to really swing the club and plays golf for a living, that kind of body, there's close to 500 yards. So all golf courses are going to be obsolete, and we are begging the USGA and begging the R&A to please cut the ball back at least 50 yards, otherwise this game is not going to be the game that we all love and enjoyed so much.

If Bryson DeChambeau went to St. Andrews today, he could drive, I think, almost nine greens of the Home of Golf, and this is not what the idea is.

Now, do I admire DeChambeau? Extremely so, because you've got to look after your body. It's a holy temple. Your health is the single most important thing in your life, and he's working out and taking it to another level, and when I saw him practicing at 8:30 at night under the lights, I said to my wife, He will definitely win tomorrow, because as Churchill said, The height that great men reached were not attained by sudden flight but while his companions were sleeping, he was toiling up within the night. And that's what DeChambeau is doing.

They all said, Here comes the kook, here comes the scientist, but he's been more brilliant than all of them, and there's nothing worse than when you think you have a superior attitude to others and they actually have a superior knowledge to you. He is a step above them all, and he has a phenomenally good golf swing. They all say he doesn't have such a -- he has a strange swing. It might look strange, but basically in pieces it's one of the best swings a human being could have. This man, there's no telling how well he can do.

I don't know about his diet. I don't know about how many calories he's taking. I've never spoken to him. But I just hope that he watches that he doesn't overeat, according to the amount of exercise. But he's a brilliant guy; he won't do it. But we've also got to combine the right eating with the right food.

But what perturbs me is the golf manufacturers, particularly the golf balls, they're reluctant to change. But all golf balls go the same distance now. No one golf ball goes further than the other. I've tried them all. They're not allowed to go further.

So if we cut the balls back further, 50 yards, it's not going to affect their sales. Whoever is No. 1 now will be No. 1 then because the reason you're No. 1 is because of your advertising and your marketing. That's the only reason you spend more money and you have more players using it and endorsing it. That's the reason, not because it's a better ball.

So we must cut the ball back, and it will happen. As sure as I'm standing here, it will happen, otherwise they're going to make a mockery of these golf courses, and we cannot make them longer because we're running out of water. The average American citizen who's a city slicker living in big cities has really little knowledge about what's happening with water worldwide. Not just in America, worldwide. We're running out of water. We're going to be fertilizing long golf courses too much. We're going to get more machinery, we're going to have more labor. We're going to run out of ground. We cannot afford that. Golf courses struggle to make a profit right now. So you make these golf courses longer and longer and longer, your members are going to hate it, and they're going to resign.

So we've got to do a lot of good thinking now.

Q. You mentioned Augusta is something that is coming up soon, so in this situation, does Augusta need to do something special to defend itself?

GARY PLAYER: You cannot defend yourself anymore. There's no defense. Look at the rough at the U.S. Open. The average golfer there would take a sand wedge to get out. DeChambeau takes a 4-iron out of there. There's no defense anymore. The only defense we have is to cut the ball back at least 50 yards, in professional golf only, not amateur golf, otherwise they're going to make a mockery of holes. They will drive the first hole at Augusta. To me that's quite sad.

Q. So you feel DeChambeau is going to do the same thing they did at the U.S. Open at Augusta?

GARY PLAYER: Yes, I'd be very surprised -- look, if he has a reasonable week he should win. But golf is a very humbling game and it doesn't always work out according to plan. But it's going to be fascinating to watch him hit a 9-iron to the second hole at Augusta if he hits that draw around the corner. At 15 he'll hit a 9-iron, a par-5. At 13 he'll hit a 9-iron, a par-5. He's going to drive over the green at No. 3. Think about that. Going to drive over the green. So I don't know where we're going.

And leave the game for the amateurs. Let them enjoy it. They're the heart of the game, not the professional, as so many people like to think. But we've got to do something about professional golf to bring the game back a level or two.

Q. I wanted to ask about your years of competing in the Philadelphia area on the Senior Tour. What do you say about the reception the Philadelphia fans would give you for those tournaments and what kind of an area is this for golf now that you're pretty much here full time?

GARY PLAYER: I've been here for six months. I came here for three days, staying with my daughter who lives here and has seven children, so I've been able to spend time with my family. But also I've been coming here since 1957. We played at White Marsh, we played at Mulvern, we played here. So many wonderful golf courses. But honest to goodness, now that I've been here for six months and playing all these different golf courses, what a state. What a beautiful state. And what magnificent golf courses. I've been playing Merion, I've been playing Pine Valley, I've been playing Aronimink, all these fantastic golf courses I played. The Trump golf course yesterday at Bedminster -- is it Bedminster? They've got so many wonderful golf courses here. It's been an absolute privilege.

I'm a great lover of trees and the one thing that's breaking my heart about golf right now, and it's a very serious thing, they are cutting trees down left, right and center on golf courses. You have no right to cut down trees. Any committee that just goes and cuts down hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of trees, I think they should be penalized. The municipalities should be on them because trees fight pollution, and all the great golf courses of the world, if you take the three best golf courses in the world right now, Augusta, Pine Valley, Royal Melbourne, any of these great golf courses, take Jack Nicklaus's golf course at Muirfield, all tree-lined. All the great golf courses of the world are tree-lined, and they're cutting them down because the greenkeeper or the architect says it's not getting enough sun or enough light. Light comes from above. If you're not getting enough wind and oxygen, prune the trees up but don't slaughter them down. You've got to be a strange animal to cut a tree that's been there for 80 and 90 years and take a saw and cut it down in 10 minutes. Environmentalists should not allow that, and it's inexcusable.

Q. What was it like to play with Charles Barkley?

GARY PLAYER: Playing with Charles Barkley was a special experience. I've met a lot of professional athletes in my life. He might be the greatest gentleman that I've played with. He's also a very humble man. He's a very knowledgeable man, and he's an appreciative man. You know, he said to me, this has been one of my bucket lists to play with you. I said, Charles, it's been one of my bucket lists to play with you. I said, You were my size when you were five. And everybody was telling me what a bad golfer he was. He played fantastic, and he's a golf enthusiast, and I'll tell you what, when he catches that ball, man, it goes a long way.

But it was the most enjoyable day. And that's the great thing about golf. It's a game that is play and stay. Other sports are play and away. NFL, you're lucky if you play four years. I played with Justin Tuck, also, lovely man, lovely golfer. These guys are loving to play golf.

Now, here's the thing. This is what's going to transpire into golf. You're going to have the Charles Barkleys, the Michael Jordans and the Justin Tucks. These guys are coming to golf in the future. Why? Because it's a sport you can play forever, and the prize money is there and getting bigger and bigger and bigger and he can help your business and you can play in every single country in the world. Their sports don't take place in every country in the world but golf does, so you're going to find these guys coming out.

Can you imagine a Michael Jordan, a Justin Tuck, all these other football players hitting a golf ball? We ain't seen nothing yet. Golf is in its infancy with long hitting. It's in its infancy. I'm so pleased I was lucky enough to choose golf because the people I'm meeting. I have played and known every president for the last 60 years, people around the world, different leaders, in the Middle East, and the Emirs in the Middle East, with prime ministers in different countries, Royal Family. I'm so thankful that I choose golf and I appreciate it every day of my life.

Q. I think the year you won here in 1962 you won $13,000. We're in an era where major winners are making almost $2 million. The winner this week I think is 645. When you won the 13,000 did it seem like a million?

GARY PLAYER: I gave it to my caddie, I think (laughing). No, money was not the criteria. We played golf because we lived in a different era, which I loved my era I played in. I'm never jealous of the prize money they play for today. I'm really respectful for that because that's what we all, Arnold, Jack, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, we all played to improved the game. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and I flew around the world for small sums of money to promote the game, so we're delighted they're playing for these enormous sums of money. But we didn't play golf to win money. We wanted to be the best, and we were really fierce competitors.

But when I won the 13,000, it was very nice, but the PGA Championship -- because I missed the cut the week before at the British Open and flew over here, and it was a very special moment coming here and being with all these members, and today I'm meeting the same people, and it's just -- I'm so thankful for what golf has done for me. It's enabled me to travel more miles than any human being ever. It's given me an incredible education. It's taught me a lot about world affairs.

What perturbs me at the moment are the students of America, the greatest country in the world, the lack of knowledge they have about world affairs. It really is surprising to me because you can go to places like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Britain, and the students are far more knowledgeable about world affairs, which is very important for a country's future, because Churchill said the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.

Q. Talking about vision, what would be your vision for women's golf in the future?

GARY PLAYER: No, women's golf is growing in leaps and bounds, and we need good sponsors. Without sponsors, without this tournament, without sponsors in any tournament -- we must never forget our sponsors, and we must continue to communicate with them, write them letters, say thank you very much. I have many sponsors. I phoned sponsors yesterday, funny enough, sponsors that are in Germany, and I said, Listen, I'm in Philadelphia, if you want me to play with any of your clients, let me know. We've got to service these contracts. We've got to service our sponsors. Not just think because we're athletes and we're making a lot of money. This is what perturbs me, the athletes that make so much money in the world today, things we never, ever dreamt of, a man making $500 million, that's wonderful, but we must never forget to say thank you to the sponsors and service them.

So golf with women's golf has got a great future, but it depends on the leadership, and the leadership of women's golf have very, very good leadership. So I'm very excited about the possibilities. Start off with the young girls, which they're doing. Get them to play this game. It's a game you can play forever. The friends you make, it travels you around the world, it's a very special game.

THE MODERATOR: Let's wrap up with maybe your thoughts on the greats of the women's game that you've crossed paths with during your career, the three or four best players maybe you shared some rounds with or time with and maybe some recollections there.

GARY PLAYER: Well, let's go back to Babe Zaharias. I mean, what a golfer she was. What an Olympic athlete. I mean, this woman was an all around. She really woke the world up with her power in those days. I always admired Louise Suggs. Mickey Wright, well, Hogan always said she had the most perfect swing, and the most knowledgeable man that ever played golf and the best swing of any man that ever played golf, without a question of a doubt was Ben Hogan, and I've studied them all for over 70 years. All those wonderful women that played golf that could really play. Whew. I mean, Lydia Ko, for a while there she was unbeatable. So many wonderful women professional golfers, and they've done so much for the game because they've always got a great smile, and they always look -- this is what the women do playing with men, and I know I much prefer to play with those women than the guys, the men, businessmen. The women, I love playing with them. They've always got a great smile, and they are better than the men with their sponsors, maybe because they're not spoilt. They don't have a sense of entitlement so they are very, very good with their sponsors. So I'm a big fan of women's golf.

THE MODERATOR: I want to thank you on behalf of the PGA of America for coming on board and joining us today and spending some time with us here in the media hub, and enjoy the rest of the day here at the championship.

GARY PLAYER: May I in conclusion say thank you to the media. When I was a young man, my father, who was a poor man, he said to me, whatever the media ask you to do, never refuse, and I see some athletes today who don't want to talk. If it wasn't for the media, and he explained that to me very, very carefully and sensibly, he said, the media are what bring the people out to the tournament. The media are informing everybody. The reason you've got sponsors is because the media are giving them coverage. So I always have said thank you to the media for promoting golf the way they do. I forever have gratitude. Thank you.

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