SHENZHEN, China – Golf needs more stars like Gary Player, ones concerned with affairs outside the ropes.
Player, who turns 74 on Sunday, is one of only five players to have won the career Grand Slam. The ageless South African appeared at Mission Hills Golf Club on Thursday during the first round of the Asian Amateur Championship and gave a lengthy, wide-ranging news conference.
Player covered topics from golf technology to obesity. Some of his statistics may be questionable, but Player’s analyses of many of the world’s problems (on and off the course) are insightful.
Even if you disagree, you have to admire his passion and energy. It’s much more entertaining than listen to another player drone on about “taking it one shot at a time.”
In Player’s words:
• “I’ve traveled a long way to come (to the Asian Amateur) because this is an important week for amateur golf, not only in Asia, but actually in the world. . . . I hope players realize how lucky they are, because they’re possibly going to the two best golf tournaments in the world (the Masters and the British Open). It took me a long time, and a lot of practice and many hard years of work to be able to go to those tournaments.”
• “It’s costing too much money to maintain the golf courses. We’re building the golf courses too long, because the golf ball is going too far, so the costs are going up instead of going down. . . . And it’s stopping the number of people that are playing. So it is critical we cut the ball back for professional golf, 50 yards. Leave the technology for the amateur.”
• “We have to build golf courses for the people. We have to change. Change is the price of survival. We cannot go on in the golf business as we are now. We have to get more people playing, more people out, more children playing, and we’ve got to change our whole concept.”
• “I’m very proud to (have designed) 36 holes (at Kau Sai Chau, Hong Kong’s only public facility). . . . When I finished with it, I felt so gratified, like I really contributed to society knowing that it was something not only for the rich. It was something for everybody.”
• “The world is running out of water quickly. By the year 2025, the world will be short of 20 percent of water. The water is one of the greatest problems facing the Earth right now.”
• “The greatest threat to the Western world is obesity, not war. (The Chinese) don’t have the high animal protein, fat diet. This is what I eat almost every day: rice, vegetables, mushrooms, fruit and juice, and nuts. We all live on bacon, sausages, milk, white bread. We live on all the stuff that’s detrimental to your health. So I beg the Chinese, eat like Chinese, not Westerners.”