For Gary Player, turning back the clock translates into a simple rewind not a wistful journey into the past. Golf's ultimate positive thinker and fitness buff, Player perennially springs forward.
And, as he did just over 30 years ago, Player is eager to return to the scene of one of his major conquests - Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., host to the 64th Senior PGA Championship, June 5-8.
The 67-year-old Player won the 1962 PGA Championship at Aronimink, which marked his third of nine career major titles. But on a July afternoon in 1962, Player was eager to be at Aronimink for another reason.
"I had left the British Open at Troon with my tail between my legs," said Player, of missing the 36-hole cut six days earlier by one stroke. "I found Aronimink was a great club and it set up perfect for me. Because of the layout of the course and position of the bunkers, I was driving with my 4-wood most of the week. And, I was putting well."
Player used an imported $50 Japanese putter to solve his woes and head to victory. He also crafted two remarkable shots - both on the 18th hole. In the third round, he salvaged a 69 by cutting a 2-iron approach up over a hill to within 40 feet of the hole and two-putting from there. In the final round, clinging to a one-stroke lead over charging Bob Goalby, Player again worked his magic.
"Obviously, you're uptight when you know that you have the possibility of winning a major championship," said Player. "Bob Goalby is right there and we're battling it out together. And, Bob Goalby was a wonderful competitor and I knew I had to play very, very well. The shot I hit at the last hole I will never forget. I hit my drive to the right in the trees and then I took a three wood and I aimed it 100 yards left of the green and hit the biggest slice around the corner and onto the green. I think that was the shot. When someone asks, 'is there one shot that comes to mind,' that is the shot. Now, I had to put from at least 70 feet up the ridge; the flag was at the top and I managed to put the ball close to it. About two feet, and made par."
Goalby missed his 25-foot birdie attempt, and Player, with an even-par 70, had another major championship. "I'm sure the memories will come back quickly when I get to Aronimink," Player said. "When you drive into the club there's a magnificent stately clubhouse that really makes you tickled to be there."
On June 4, Aronimink Golf Club will present Player with an honorary membership.
"I'm very honored to receive this at a club like Aronimink," he said. "To see the course again will be great. It has had a renovation, but I am sure that it will be in tremendous shape and just as challenging." Player won a second PGA Championship in 1972, and is one of just five players - joined by Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods - to have won professional golf's four Grand Slam events: the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. He also shares with Nicklaus another championship rarity. "Jack and I are the only players to have Grand Slams on the regular Tour and the other on the Champions Tour," said Player of his triumphs in The Tradition, Senior PGA Championship, Ford Senior Players Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. "The Senior PGA Championship holds some very special memories and I always look forward to returning."
The 64th Senior PGA Championship's 144-player field features 22 past major champions who have combined for 73 major titles. Player will be one of seven players who competed in the 1962 PGA Championship returning to Aronimink. Rounding out the veteran "alumni" are Nicklaus, who tied for third; Bobby Nichols, who finished sixth; Jack Fleck, who tied for seventh; Doug Sanders, who tied for 15th; Arnold Palmer, who tied for 17th and Tommy Jacobs, who shared 23rd.
The Senior PGA Championship was begun in 1937 at Augusta National Golf Club at the invitation of legendary Bobby Jones, and has since featured the game's legendary stars that have reached the age of 50.
Tickets to the 64th Senior PGA Championship are available by calling 1-800-PGA-TCKT (742-8258), or visiting www.pga.com