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April 10, 2009

Gary Player


ED HERLIHY: Good evening. This man needs to introduction, he's an inspiration to all of us, three-time Masters winner in his 52nd appearance, Gary Player, and we would love to open it up to questions.

Q. Can you remember the reception you had on the 18th, was that louder than when you won all your jackets?
GARY PLAYER: No question. Ten times more. I'll never forget that as long as I live. It just went on and on and on from all sides.
But it happened on every single hole. All 36 holes, I got a standing ovation. I wish I had words to -- I wish, as I had just mentioned, the vocabulary of Winston Churchill to say the correct thing, but it was a feast. It was something you'll never, ever forget. You'll go to your grave knowing you had tremendous love showered upon yourself.
I'm saying it, and I'm repeating myself, that I said it at the dinner the other night. We can all say a prayer, and everybody has a choice of believing or not, but a man never stands so tall as when he's on his knees. And I've been on my knees a lot and will be saying thank you, and I have, for the talent that has been loaned to me, to be able to play on 52 occasions, to be healthy, just to be healthy, to putt yourself in probably one percent of the world that you can come here, continuously healthy, play, make friends, see friends, great memories of people like Bobby Jones, who was such an example to everybody in the game, as far as manners were concerned; Clifford Roberts who was the disciplinarian of the tournament; seeing President Eisenhower, seeing the first African American take part in the Tournament, my battles with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and my wife being with me on every occasion and there she is today with my whole family walking around with me on every hole and supporting me and giving me love; mm. If you've got a great family, you've lived. (Tearing).

Q. What are you going to do with yourself now? Are you going to be on the Senior Tour?
GARY PLAYER: I'll probably play about eight or nine tournaments a year, eight, nine, or ten senior events, yeah, and designing a lot of golf courses and helping to raise money for young black kids in my country, and China and in Europe and in America. Wherever we can, we are trying to raise money for under privileged people. So I have tons of work to do, corporate days; and my farming, when I'm most happy is when I'm on my farm with my family.
I won't be bored. I'll keep very, very busy.

Q. When you reached the 18th green, you knelt, was that choreographed or was that spontaneous?
GARY PLAYER: No, it was just so overwhelming. I just had to say, you can tip your hat and I've seen people do that and I had to do something different; what do I do? It's just a message. Thank you.

Q. Several of your countrymen greeted you on 18; and did Trevor say anything to you at that point?
GARY PLAYER: It meant so much to me, because I've taken an interest, and there was Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman and Louis Oosthuizen, and I watched him play for the first time this year, really talented and Richard Sterne.
I've taken a great interest in all of our young South Africans golf, because South Africa has really been an amazing country with golf, a small country. And as I said the other day, we won more Majors than any country post-war other than the United States. And to have these young guys out there on my last Shot of the Day to be there to wait for me to come in, I say, "Thank you."

Q. This week, you've spoken about how much the Masters has contributed to your life. Turn that around; three wins, 52 years later, what would you hope Gary Player's contribution has been to the Masters?
GARY PLAYER: I'd like to think that I've played with tenacity; never given up, never on a single shot, even to the last putt that I hit. I've tried to behave well. I've made a lot of friends. I did something, which I've never told anybody. You know, we, today, when Trevor Immelman wins last year, you can sit in your lounge, in China, in Africa, anywhere in the world, and you can see it all taking place.
When I was winning the Masters, we didn't have television in South Africa. And when I won, I got the film and I hired a man to go around the entire South Africa to show all our people what it was like to win the Masters. And so the Masters has meant an awful lot to me, and have tried to be an ambassador for this great Tournament.
It's been the best-run golf tournament in the world, there's no question. They do have a great advantage in hosting it and playing it at the same place every year. They have taken care, as I've always said to you, I said the other day, I said immense things to the media, because as an athlete I realize what the media has done.
Unfortunately athletes today do not quite realize it, don't quite get it, just what the media means to us as athletes, to the sponsors, just to everybody. If it wasn't for the media, we would not be having all of these people and all of these sponsors. They all rely on the media. I reiterate that and say thanks again.

Q. Any special emotions as you went through Amen Corner?
GARY PLAYER: No. I was doing fine up to there until I got to 18 and then I got very choked.
Then I saw my family, and everybody else.

Q. Having said what you said about the media, are there players that you wish maybe were more open with the media, or do you think the golfers are doing it just about right?
GARY PLAYER: No, I cannot say. I'm not around all of the golfers all the time. I'm just talking about in general, with athletes in general. We have got to realize they should never, ever turn down interviews.
That's one thing I'm so happy. I've never said I can't do it; I don't do it. If I'm in a hurry I'll say, "Phone our office; call me." When I'm at my house in Florida or my farm in South Africa, I'm getting calls; two, three interviews a day, and I always make a point of doing every single one.

Q. 52 years ago, could you have imagined you spent a full year of your life walking around this golf course?
GARY PLAYER: No, I never, ever thought that. Jack Nicklaus and I said -- we won the Grand Slam and we said, well, we've done everything. Are we going to retire at 35? Then I had a new desire. I wanted to be the first man to win the international Grand Slam on the Senior Tour.
And I've won more Majors on the Senior Tour than anybody and I'm the only one that's won the international Grand Slam; that's with the British Open in it on the Senior Tour, and that give me as much kick as doing it on the regular TOUR. Might not mean as much to you guys, but being a competitor, it meant an awful lot to me. And then I wanted to win internationally. I didn't want to be a golfer that was great in one country. I wanted to go and wheat guys in their home countries. I was able to do that, and that gave me great satisfaction to try and be their competitor.
And coming from a very poor beginning, which I'm very thankful for, however, because that gave me the tenacity and that gave me the desire to be a champion and to go to the gym for 63 years and to watch my diet and to improve my speech and to read. It's been an incredible life.

Q. It seems like you took special joy this week in passing on wisdom or tips on the golf course to people you played practice rounds with or even out there in the last two days. Did you feel a sense of urgency to do that because this is your last shot to do that with these guys on this course, explaining 52 years of accumulated knowledge?
GARY PLAYER: Everybody in this room, doesn't matter who you are, had to have help in life sometimes, doesn't matter who you are. As a young man, I was as a Jewish club in Johannesburg called Killarney. They collected money for me and gave me an air ticket. My father gave me and had an overdraft, which I only found out many years later to buy me a set of golf clubs.
And so it wasn't just this week. I've always tried to take an interest in young people's golf, because I realize I was helped. And we all have an obligation in life. It's a game of giving back, but not only a game, but we have an obligation in life, to pass on the baton to other people.
And so it's natural instinct. It's not something that I just did this week.

Q. I saw Mr. Payne shake your hand before you went into the scorer's hut. Has there been a conversation in the last couple of days about coming back as an Honorary Starter?
GARY PLAYER: No, nobody spoke to me about that.

Q. How far would you say you have travelled to this date?
GARY PLAYER: Well, it's getting very close to 15 million miles, and I'll keep being the most travelled athlete. I wonder, is there a human being that's travel for 56 years?
If you take a businessman, of course your lawyers can have somebody challenge this I suppose, but if you take a businessman, if he travels for 20 years, let's say extensively until he's 30, I mean, it's just not on.
But Arnold Palmer has always said, nobody has ever travelled as you have, because he knows I've gone all around the world designing golf courses. And maybe I've lost a million miles, I don't know, it's been so many. And back and forth, and travelling back and forth over here with my wife; how can you be so thankful to have a wife like I have had, my goodness, she's spoiled me and looked after me; never complained about going away, always continuously going by, raising six children. You have to be lucky to have a wife like that.
So, here I've been travelling for 56 years, my goodness me, and when we first came over here, we travelled at 29,000 feet with a constellation and took us 40 hours to get here and five stops. And now we have 21 grandchildren. So I have to almost win the Tournament to break even. And they all eat like it's the Last Supper. (Laughter).

Q. Can you comment on your support of black South African kids?
GARY PLAYER: Well, we have raised a lot of money which goes on in perpetuity now, so when I'm dead and done they will continuously get a million bucks every year to go on and help them. We continue to try to do that.
And I have just built a small school. My wife is going to teach the young black kids on my ranch, give them Biblical lessons on a Sunday and teach the young kids who are with their mothers during working hours, and having underprivileged people come and visit our church, and my wife will give sermons and we have other people doing and we just try and help our community.
It's also been a great thrill going into a place like China and raising money for kids that have got AIDS; or in America. Wherever we raise money for, we give that money to that respective country.

Q. How much has your faith played in your golf career over these past years?
GARY PLAYER: Well, we all have a faith of some kind and I hope that some people do have a faith of some kind. In America, it has, "In God we trust" on the coin. That is what has made America the great country it is. It distresses me when I see it, just vanishing gradually. I just don't understand it, when you've been blessed to have this great country.
If you think of how the Americans beat the British, unprepared; that they had this great faith that they could do it. And they went on and beat the British. It all goes back.
I don't know. For me, it's probably been the main reason that I've been the competitor that I have. And I never pray to win. I pray for courage. I pray for patience, and I pray for hard work. I've diligently worked in my career. I've been a workaholic, and I enjoy work, and that's what has made this country so damn great; that people got off their butts and worked hard.

Q. What was going through your mind on the 18th, and were you able to focus?
GARY PLAYER: Very hard to focus. I actually hit my best shot of the two days at 18. I hit a 5-wood to 18 that just went off like a rocket at the pin and I got to the green and I just could not even really focus on my putt, because I mean, they are just going on and on, which was just so gratifying.
And I mean, you know, wow, the message comes through, of this great love. You're overawed. You're overawed.

Q. Would you say it not impossible to be a ferocious competitor and to be a generous human being at the same time?
GARY PLAYER: You've got to. It's imperative that champions do that. It's a fine line of being a vicious and a tough competitor, and at the same time, having compassion for people.
When you're on the golf course, you're out there trying your best, because you know, if you think of all the -- on the regular and Senior Tour, the 18 Major championships that I won, it's usually by one shot over 72 holes for four days. It's one shot. So you have to be focused. And sometimes people might take it the wrong way.
But it's a fine line of being a fierce competitor, and at the same time having compassion. But there are different times. I think when you are on the golf course, people understand it, but when you are off the golf course, I told young (Danny) Lee who I played with. I said to him, "You must have a great smile. That's going to endear yourself to people. Have a great smile."
He's got tremendous ability, and this is what these young guys have got to do. They have got to give back. A smile is an amazing thing. You can be a fierce competitor but a good smile will carry you a long way.
ED HERLIHY: Gary, we appreciate it and thank you so very much for all of the memories.

End of FastScripts

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