THE NUMBER GARY TREASURES MOST
The stellar career of Gary Player, South Africa’s greatest sportsman, has always involved large numbers – and continues to do so.
The stellar career of Gary Player, arguably South Africa’s greatest sportsman of all time, has always involved large numbers – and continues to do so.
The super-fit 71-year-old has travelled 14 million miles, won 163 tournaments worldwide, won all four Majors, three of them on two or more occasions, played in 49 Masters and more than 50 Open Championships and even shot better than his age with a 69 on the Champions Tour last year.
And that’s just a small sample of the records and large numbers he has accumulated, but there is a new one that has just come up that he is especially proud of – the 50th anniversary of his marriage to Vivienne Verwey on January 19, 1956.
“It was definitely love at first sight and I love my wife more today than I ever did.” Player told the PGATour.com this week.
“I really appreciate the things that she has done for me as a wife. I could never have had the success I’ve had without this good woman.”
Player recalled how their romance had begun 57 years ago when Player was only 14 years old.
Vivienne’s father was a golf professional and one day when she and her family were visiting Player’s neighbours, Player’s brother, Christopher, pointed out the 13-year-old girl on the other side of the wall.
“She’s a real knockout,” Christopher said – and from the moment Player saw her, he just knew “she was the one”.
“People find it hard to believe, but I said Christopher, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’
“I’d never met her. It was just a premonition, I don’t know how else to explain it.”
With the teenaged Player spending hours practicing his game at the Virginia Park Golf Club in Johannesburg where Vivienne’s father, Jock Verwey, was the club professional and his mentor and where his daughter worked part-time in the pro shop, it wasn’t surprising that the two grew increasingly attached over the next five years.
When Player travelled to Australia in 1957 to the Ampol Tournament, the richest outside of the USA at the time, he promised Vivienne he would marry her if he won.
He did and a friendly pressman got a message through to her which read: “So thrilled to have won the tournament. Will you marry me?”
She was at a golf tournament in Johannesburg when she received it and ecstatically jumped high into the air.
A cameraman snapped the picture, which became the “image of the year” in a local newspaper.
From the outset on their honeymoon where Player continued to practice every day, Vivienne has always been hugely supportive.
“Arnold [Palmer], Jack [Nicklaus] and I were considered the Big Three at the time, but as far as I am concerned the Big Three were really our wives,” he said.
“These were special women, who never complained about us leaving and never nagged. For an athlete to excel for a length of time, you have to have a good wife.”
Vivienne was also a great mother, Player added, saying she should be given all the credit for successfully raising their large family of six children who between them have produced 18 grandchildren – and still counting.
“When we were struggling, I told her I was going to win the Grand Slam. She said that was a tall order but, ‘For every major you win, we will have a baby.’
“I won nine majors but we only had six children because she said finally, “That’s enough.
“I still tease her about not being a woman of her word.”
They celebrated their 50th anniversary on Friday in Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii, where Player is compete in the MasterCard Championship with the conviction that:”Behind every successful man is a woman, but behind every successful professional golfer is an exceptional woman.”
On this day in 2014 – Europe retain Ryder Cup with Gleneagles victory
The Gleneagles victory was Europe’s eighth win in 10 matches.
‘Is this where I am going to die?’ Nicolas Colsaerts on kidney disorder battle
The Belgian is the focus of attention this week as he belatedly defends the Cazoo Open de France title he won three years ago.
On this day in 2008: Ryder Cup misery in Louisville for Nick Faldo’s Europe team
Faldo was heavily criticised for his tactics in the closing singles.
Open champion Cameron Smith wins first LIV trophy in just second start
The world number two is the highest-ranked player to join the rebel series.
Robert MacIntyre beats Matt Fitzpatrick in play-off to win Italian Open
MacIntyre birdied the first extra hole at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, the venue for next year’s Ryder Cup.
Matt Fitzpatrick holds narrow lead ahead of final round at Italian Open
Rory McIlroy and Aaron Rai are one shot off the pace.
Rory McIlroy picks up the pace to claim lead ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick in Rome
McIlroy’s group looked unlikely to complete their second rounds after taking three hours to play nine holes.
Matt Fitzpatrick leads way at Italian Open despite ‘inconsistent’ display
The US Open champion held a one-shot lead over fellow Englishman Tom Lewis,
Rory McIlroy rues a late night until eagle gets him flying in Italian Open
The four-time major winner was only a shot behind leader Matt Fitzpatrick after the first round of the Rome event.
Rory McIlroy begins Italian Open with superb 67 after recovering from slow start
He kick-started his round by holing out from 115 yards for an eagle on the par-four third.