In late November of 2013 I was lucky enough to visit the family home of Gary Player in South Africa. The trip came about as part of the long-term sponsorship Gary Player has with SAP the German technology firm.
It was probably one of the most inspiring, if exhausting three days of my life. I have never met a more energetic human being. It was truly wonderful to spend time in his company. From the moment I arrived having driven the six and half hours from Johannesburg the only time I stood still was when we ate and slept!
The family farm which is called the Gary Player Stud Farm in Colesberg, was acquired by the family in 1974. Player’s passion for horse racing and the breeding of thoroughbreds is well known. To see him at home spending time with these beautiful animals was simply awe inspiring. The enthusiasm with which he showed me around the stables, describing each horse’s history showed his utter love for his animals.
So many memories will stick with me for ever, none more so than seeing him with an eighteen day old foal racing around him in a small grass paddock for the first time. If still pictures had sound it would still just never do this moment justice.
Every day he climbs what I immediately christened ‘heart attack hill’ where over the years he has built a route of steps up the ‘mountain’ beside the farm. I managed about twenty steps before I was puffing like a steam train. The views from the top are simply spectacular but I can honestly say I cannot believe how an eighty year old man can do this so easily.
I also witnessed one of his one hour long gym sessions where he made me quiver with fright, that he would ask me to try some of the exercises. The fitness of the man is legendary, but to witness it first hand is quite awe-inspiring.
He is still finishing a nine-hole short golf courses through and around the boundaries of the farm. Each hole has devilish hazards awaiting. Some of these holes have been designed with the help of his close friend Jack Nicklaus who has been a frequent visitor over the past forty years.
One of the most enjoyable aspect of the stay was dinner each evening where we would all congregate in the marvellous dining room. He would sit at the top of the table and as Gary Player does tell incredible stories of his life. If only I had had a sneaky recording device honestly there was a book’s worth of legends each night. I suppose one of my fondest memories was being able to tell a story of my own that he actually made me repeat twice as he could not believe how Robert Taylor a Leicestershire county golf colleague of mine had managed to hole in one on the sixteenth hole at Hustanton Golf Club in England three days in a row! Gary Player almost speechless – a miracle!