Gary Player and I have something in common: We share a birthday. For that reason alone, he is one of my favorite athletes. But he is also an incredibly nice man, who –without knowing it — made a lasting impression on a small boy:
Many years ago, I was attending the Ford Senior Championship in Dearborn, Michigan with my eldest son, who was about ten at the time. He and I spent the day following Player and Chi Chi Rodriguez through the round. About halfway through, Player left his ball and walked from the fairway to the ropes where we stood. He introduced himself to my son, shook his hand, and asked if he played golf. My boy responded hesitantly, but Player didn’t waiver. He said “Son, it doesn’t matter what you do. But whatever you want to do, you must practice, practice, practice.” Then he went back to his ball.
My son still remembers that day. And the advice. He does not play golf, but he has applied it to his pursuits: engineering, programming and other intellectual challenges.
Thank you Mr. Player.