Gary Player set to make 50th Masters appearance

South African Gary Player makes history in April when he tees up for his 50th US Masters at Augusta, tying the record set by another legend, Arnold Palmer.

The nine-time Major champion, now 71, is one of the most influential golfers in history and, as accomplished Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson points out in a tribute to Player, he was also a pioneer for international players in a once American-dominated sport.

Player was one of only 11 international golfers when he made his debut at the Masters in 1957. This year, 50 players from outside the United States will compete at Augusta, from such previously unlikely places as Fiji, France and India.

It will also be the first time in the tournament that the Americans are fewer in number than their foreign counterparts. And by the way, Player was also the first international golfer to win at the Masters, in 1961.

I first interviewed Player about 10 years ago, as a sports writer for the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong. He was opening the Kau Sai Chau Golf complex, the former British colony’s first public course carved out of an island previously used as a bombsite by Her Majesty’s forces.

He was a gentleman and true to his humble self, Player took more pleasure from the environmental impact of the golf course than his own contribution. He told a horde of journalists before hitting a symbolic tee-shot into the South China sea:

“There are more birds here now that there ever was before.”

Ferguson writes about Player’s return two years ago to St Andrews for the British Open. One of golf’s most famous anecdotes is about Player sleeping under a dune during the 1955 Open because he couldn’t afford the hotel rates.

He was quoted as saying:

“I went to that same spot where I had slept. I knelt down and said a prayer. That’s where it all started.”

And golf fans hope it will never end.

One Response to “Gary Player set to make 50th Masters appearance”

  1. Ted Exley says:

    :roll:I think that Gary Player has been fantastic. 40 years ago he came to a local club, to play in the Captains Day. After the game he entranced the members, in the bar, by doing one-armed press-ups. He challenged everybody, but only one man could even attempt more than 5. Gary did 20 with both hands !
    However, he may play in 50 or more Masters, but he will never be able to break Arnie’s record of 50 on the trot. But what does it really matter….Splendid achievement all round. I believe that our current crop of top golfers will suffer ‘burnout’ before they get anywhere near Jack, Arnie and Gary.

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