BEDFORD Gary Player is a busy man.
When the Black Knight flips the next calendar page he will be 80 years old, so the message was direct. Who’s got time for mincing words? Each anecdote from a lifetime of globetrotting was delivered on Monday with the passion and energy of a pep talk.
There is meaningful work to be done.
“My great dream is to be able to raise $100 million before I pack it up,” Player said on Monday at GlenArbor Golf Club where he was hosting a benefit for his namesake foundation. “The sun is setting … but we will achieve this.”
Player knows a thing or two about collecting oversized checks.
There were only 15 foursomes on the course Monday for the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational, but the foundation expected to collect more than $200,000 for its charitable pursuits.
Not one detail was overlooked.
Player brought a stable of capable friends — Annika Sorenstam, Jason Dufner, Retief Goosen, Mark O’Meara, Brooke Henderson, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Hunter Mahan, Tom Lehman, Dottie Pepper, Ian Woosnam, and Larry Mize.
“Gary is an amazing man,” Sorenstam said. “When I began to step away from the game seven years ago, I looked more at other things that were important. He’s achieved so much from a business perspective and from a legacy perspective. I do similar things with my foundation, but I’m 30 years behind and don’t know if I will ever get where Gary is.”
By design, Player has no intention of being recalled for winning 165 titles across the globe.
“It’s wonderful to win major championships, but everyone will forget those over time,” he said. “When you change peoples’ lives you will never be forgotten. … Golf is the greatest catalyst of all sports for raising money. … This game can help change the world to a great degree.”
Player hosted the likes of Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Ian Poulter, Colin Montgomerie and Suzann Pettersen in the United Kingdom last July, and the series will make stops later this year in China, India, South Africa and Abu Dhabi.
Charity started at home in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was the inspiration behind an effort to better impoverished communities and provide health and educational services to children in the slums. Player soon expanded to the United Kingdom and the United States.
“I was walking in Cape Town the other day,” Player said. “I was going into a restaurant and I hear, ‘Gary Player!’ I looked and couldn’t see anybody. He says, ‘Up here.’ He was at the top of the building. He’s telling me, ‘Thank you, my friend. You changed my life. I lived in a slum. I had nothing. I’ve got a degree from university. I have a job. I have a family. God bless you.’ Man alive. Is that something? That is something.”
He remains a fierce advocate for healthy eating and physical fitness.
“I’ve never met somebody who is so successful in his business life who is so giving,” said Hendrik Riehmer, a managing partner of Berenberg Bank.
Player designed the course at GlenArbor and will stop by from time to time.
“I came here and put a lot into this golf course,” he said of the 6,900-yard layout that borders I-684. “We tried to make this beautiful. We want to make people say, ‘I didn’t play very well, but man, I want to go back.’ This is my place. This is where I come when I’m here in New York.”