Senior PGA Championship

Interview with Gary Player

June 3, 2003

Note: the news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations for the PGA of America.

JULIUS MASON: As many of you know, Gary Player (who won the 1962 PGA Championship here at Aronimink) was presented honorary membership at Aronimink Golf Club last night in a moving ceremony. Gary, congratulations. Welcome to the 64th Senior PGA Championship

GARY PLAYER: In regard to the membership last night, it was something that I really appreciated very much indeed, because having come here after the British Open in 1962 I'd already won the Augusta and I'd already won the British Open so I was trying to get the Grand Slam and came here with my tail between my legs because I missed the cut at Troon where we play the British Open; probably the most -- certainly one of the five most difficult course I have played. I hit my ball on the last hole just out-of-bounds right on the edge of the green and I came here with my three children, my mother-in-law, and for the first prize of $13,000, and then I looked down the list and Nicklaus was 3 behind me and he won 3,000,400. So gave me a bit of a kick.

But I can say how much I appreciated last night and the president just came to me at lunch and he says, you know you are the only member we have that hasn't complained about something in this golf club. But I must say that this golf course, I do not have remember playing and seeing a golf course in better condition - nothing is more beautiful than this golf course is this week.

I think it is very tough. If you go in the rough, you are going to lose a shot unless you just come out smelling like a rose, and make some great recovery. But I think the course is very tough and I had one pro a bet -- because I am the worst at betting at a golf course but I guess -- I said, I didn't anybody would shoot under 280 and we had a $10 bet, so I will probably lose that, but there won't be a lot of scores under 280 because the rough is really -- it's tough.

And the golf course is, with all this rain if it had sunshine, of course, it makes a big difference. When I won here, I drove with a 4-wood, funny enough. I aimed it up the right, I hit this big old draw, I was something like 27 years of age and a lot stronger.

But this golf course is in phenomenal shape, and it was Donald Ross that did it, wasn't it? He really did some great greens without being too undulating. These undulating greens make me want to puke when I think the members have got to play it day in day out, they have got no chance. These, they have done in a very subtle way and gives the members a chance to play them.

Q. It's been a long time since the 1962 PGA. The course has just undergone a fairly extensive restoration. I am wondering how much you recall of the course in '62, how different is it today than it was then?

GARY PLAYER: Well, you are talking about 41 years ago and it is very difficult when you get to my age to remember what you did two weeks ago because I live in three hotels a week. So I don't remember the course being a lot different. Obviously, it wasn't in the kind of condition that it's in now.

I go along invariably and I have to go along for some presentation with where they are playing a regular Tour event like I was at Muirfield Village last week to go attend a Captains Club meeting on the Monday night. I walk out there and I actually I don't believe what I am seeing. Because Arnold (Palmer) and I played the Tour in '57, with a lot of other guys, and you know, my mind is very clear what golf courses were like then. And I come here this week and I say it's just not possible.

If you got a garden to look after of one acre, and you get that in this kind of condition -- this guy has got 200 acres. It's absolutely impeccable. I can tell you that the golf course was not as in good a shape as this. Obviously, it's not fair to make comparisons because you have just had a month or two months of rain, whatever you have had here, and it's abnormal. But I suppose if it dried out it will be very similar, but in much better condition.

Q. When you walk around do you find yourself reminiscing a lot?

GARY PLAYER: Very much.

Q. Could you share some of those with us?

GARY PLAYER: Well, the shot that comes to mind to win the golf tournament. I drove in the trees on the right-hand side (on the 18th hole) and I was lucky I found a good lie. I remember aiming the ball 80 yards left of the green, hitting this big slice onto the front left edge of the green. I was showing some of the guys where I 2-putted today and put it on the front edge and the flag was just over the ridge at the back like 50-footer and I put it up like this (indicating two feet) I never forget that shot.

The PGA has been -- actually, regular and senior I have won five PGAs so I have had some memorable shots and the most memorable one was the 16th at Oakland Hills, where I went over the tree and put it 3 foot from the hole. But when you win something like that, everybody wrote about that shot, but at 17 I still remember Oakland Hills hitting 1-iron to the green and 18 I hit a 2-iron that didn't miss the flag by two inches so you know the shot that sets you up for the win but you have still got to follow-up to win. So you remember a lot of good shots and times like that.

But it's a wonderful feeling coming back here knowing how I felt when I arrived here in 1962. You know trying to make a mark and trying to win the Grand Slam. But I tell a lot of people when it comes to major championships and they don't quite appreciate it, but I suppose you have to be a professional golfer. I am as proud as my Grand Slam or my 9 majors on the Senior Tour as I am on the regular Tour. Because you are doing it after the age of 50. An when you are young man you go out there every week you expect to play well and you do play well.

I didn't have many times where I played badly, quite honestly, as a young man. But when you come out after 50 and you guys who attend the tournaments now know how tough it is to win the majors on this Tour. It's very, very difficult. And the average persons kind of pooh-poohs it a bit. But for me, I was telling my wife last night I said, I really I have appreciated my major wins and may Grand Slam or nine -- I won nine on both Tours, as much as I do on the front nine. Probably due to different circumstances in ages.

Q. When you look, you talk about four decades back and could you have envisioned then you, Jack (Nicklaus), Arnold, still being out here playing together in these tournaments, and what does it mean to golf that you are and can you just talk a little bit about the legacy of the Big Three?

GARY PLAYER: Well, without contradicting you, it's five decades. It is only 10 years, but no, you know, you see I was -- we were all -- in fact I am sure people like yourself were brainwashed by your parents and by people and environment when you were a young man that you got old -- when you got to 50 you were getting old and I remember Henry Cotton, who was a marvelous golfer in England, and a man who I will tell you something interesting in a moment - he said to me, look laddy, when you get to 40, he said, you can forget it. And I went back to Augusta and won The Masters at 42 and I just looked up at him in Heaven and I said, Sir Henry, I said, how wrong you were and stick around, baby.

Then I won a tournament at 62 years of age on this Tour, one month behind Mike Fetchick, the oldest to win. Age is only a number and we have progressed to such an extent with exercise, with diet, with mind, and even now I am trying to be the first man to ever win in six decades in the United States. It's never been done in an -- official PGA events. Now whether I can do it or not at 68, 67 nearly 68 is very difficult, extremely difficult, but I can do it. There's an outside chance. Whether I can do that we'll wait and see.

But as far as Arnold and Jack are concerned, and myself. No, I did not think that we would be playing out here at 67 years of age and Arnold at 73, and Jack Nicklaus at 62. If that's the correct ages. I did not think that we would be playing out here because we were brainwashed along those lines, but when I became 40 and won at Augusta at 42, then I began to think well, why can I not play out here, you know, at 60. Now I am playing well. I know I can play out here and compete and break my age on quite a lot of few occasions at 70. And we never had traveling gymnasiums like we have now.

Think about it. We had to go down to the crummy YMCA and wait your turn to use those weights, put a towel over your shoulder, do those crunches. Now you lie on your back and you -- here I am at 67, I am pushing 500 pounds with my legs, I do a thousand crunches with an 80-pound weight on my chest, all these modern-day equipment gymnasiums, we never ever knew anything about that. There was no such thing around. And quite honestly we are very spoiled. We never used to go to the airport and have a car waiting for us, three dozen new balls in your locker; everybody wants to give you a new pair of shoes, a new this, a new that. There was just none of this that happened. We took a taxi. If we went out to the club, we took a taxi or one of the guys that might have had a car. It was just a different world.

And in talking in regards to Arnold and Jack, they have been such wonderful ambassadors for the game. They have been wonderful ambassadors for this great country. And I think it's good they are still around because I know when I first went to Augusta, one of the great thrills for me was to see Ben Hogan and Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret and Lloyd Mangrum and Byron Nelson and all those golfers, to me, it was thrill. That was a bigger thrill than actually playing in Augusta.

It was really nice. That's why it's so nice when you see young kids come up with their parents like today and ask you for autographs at the age of 6 and 7 and 8, 9, 10. So golf is really a very, very special game and I think the word that comes to my mind, as I said last night, is a grateful heart to still be playing because in every other sport you are actually-- you have diminished, you have gone at the age of 32, average. Here I am nearly 68 saying gee, I want to win one more. If you choose golf, you are a very lucky person.

Q. Would you talk a little bit about what it takes beyond a golf game to win a major championship? We hear players a lot talk about patience. Is that the key thing that you have to have in a major because the setup is so different?

GARY PLAYER: You know, this is one of the things I want to do when I -- whenever I retire from golf, I'd like to do something different. I'd like to enlarge on that. That's such a great question. Because there's so many fine golfers that can play well and win tournaments. But there are not a lot of golfers that can win majors. Now it's got to be some tiny little thing that I say you can't describe. I don't know whether you can describe it. One of the things -- but I can try and describe it and one of the things I want to do in my ranch when I retire in South Africa one day, I want to have a school for leading golfers in the world, the five leading golfers at each part of the world to come to my farm. I am going to have a special like a boot camp training session to get them in shape. I am going to teach them to try and eat properly while on the road; which is not easy. And then I want to put them in a dark room, and I want to say now you are coming up the last three holes of a tournament. And you need three pars to win the major. This is how you have got to think. I am going to try and explain it to them to the best of my ability.

But I think A, patience is an essential ingredient. Without it you cannot. The most patient golfer I have seen in my lifetime is Jack Nicklaus. You have to know -- course management is imperative, to play the right shot at the right time. And not sometimes be too greedy. I have seen guys lose tournaments because they are too greedy and I have seen guys lose tournaments because they are too conservative. And without thinking -- mentioning names, I remembered Augusta one guy needed 3 pars to win and he lost it in the playoff. He got too conservative.

But you have got to know the right balance of attack, and being on the defensive side. So it's those things. It also convincing yourself and I think this is where the big spark comes in. It's convincing yourself that I am going to win and I can win. Whereas a lot of guys get a very negative thought and you know, nervousness, we all get nervous, but some guys can get less nervous than others because nervousness comes from within. It comes from your brain. Your attitude has got to tell you what to do to set yourself up to win and it's only that.

Q. You said you'd try to teach them how to think but isn't that what so many of these sports psychologists try to teach them to do and you talked about the fact that sports psychologists never sat over a 3-footer to win U.S. Open...

GARY PLAYER: What I am basically saying I am going to teach them when -- I am going to teach them -- either they have got it or they haven't got it to win the majors, but what I am going to say to them you have got to train and be fit. Because if you train and you are fit and you are coming down the line and you are not fit and you are tired, the man who is fit is going to beat you. I am going to get that into their brain that you have got to be fit. And the fitter you are, the better you are and the better you eat, the better your body works.

Because once you are 10 pounds overweight, your graph is starting to go down. To what degree, it depends on genetically speaking. So I have got to teach them to get fit. I have got to teach them they have got to eat properly and I can tell them the foods that are good for them and I can tell them the foods that are poison for you. You have the choice. If you are in a dark room you are listening to this, it means something, whereas, if they are all sitting in a room they sort of pay attention and half pay attention and not to the degree you'd like them to.

The other thing is that when the flag is on the right, how you go about hitting the right type of shot to that flag? When the flag is in the front and when the flag is in different positions, what kind of shots they should be practicing to hit to win the tournament. Now it's up to them to actually execute it. But there are certain things when that flag is back on the right, a certain movement you have got to have. When the flag is on the front left, a certain movement you have got to have. And I can tell them all these things and it's up to them to digest it, and to put it into practice. And whether they have that little flare. Everybody who wins big tournaments has been granted a little flair of some type, a little spark that you cannot define.

But you have got to try and work on that and you have got to, I believe, I often said with my son -- my wife said to me one day, why did our son not become a world beater because he used to beat David Frost every single time they played. And David Frost became a wonderful golfer and multi-millionaire. Yet my son never got on the Tour yet he beat him every time they played. And so there's something there, the desire, and I think that's something that we have got to say for majors, you have got to have an animal desire. You have got to have a desire to win like an animal. Some people think they have desire and other people are hungry like a lion. With Tiger it sticks out a mile. To me it sticks out a mile.

I remember watching Jack Nicklaus play, he'd finish the round and it would be getting dark and he'd go to the practice tee and hit some balls. Arnold Palmer, you see people, they remind me of a lion in a cage. Almost to the extent and yet these great psychiatrists or psychologists always tell you, you have got to have fun, you have got to relax, man, all the champions I have seen have been uptight, uptight. Ready to pounce like a lion -- imagine telling a lion when he's going to kill his prey, relax. That prey will kill him. You have got to be ready to pounce. And I have found that with all champions I have seen. Even (Lee) Trevino, who did a lot of talking and kidding around, he got to that ball, he was a lion ready to pounce. He was a different man when he got over that ball. So there are a lot of ingredients as, you know, having been around so long, that really matter. So you have got to -- it is a lot of ingredients.

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the PGA of America I am going to let you know that I am removing the banana cream pie and the oatmeal raisin cookies because I feel motivated. I want to make sure you are too.

Q. How much has this tournament has gotten new life since they took it on the road three years ago?

GARY PLAYER: Best thing could have ever done was give it a new venue every year. So, you see, there's always an answer to improve. And you know, the Senior PGA is the oldest major championship on the Champions Tour, and I think that you owe it to the public around the country to be able to see a tournament like this. I think it was a brilliant decision, absolutely brilliant, because it was becoming very stagnant down there. They were just taking it for granted and to have all these great golf courses to go to, I mean we have gone to some super golf courses. Where are we playing next year.

JULIUS MASON: Louisville, Valhalla Golf Club.

GARY PLAYER: Never been there. You go like this.

Q. Two PGAs there. PGA of America owns it. It is okay. It lacks history.

GARY PLAYER: Well, I like to go to places that have the history, I think that's a very good idea.

Q. Do you think the Champions Tour is going to come back to the Philadelphia area on a regular basis and can you talk about the Ace Club, is that the type of facility that might be a place where the Tour might end up?

GARY PLAYER: Well, the Ace Club that we're designing at the moment right now is really a true Championship golf course. It's 7,500 yards. And this is what the owner wanted. I don't necessarily say you have got to have a golf course that long to make it a great championship golf course. But he wants it because he is a golfer and they see where golf equipment is going. He has got a good point. And as sure as I am sitting here, and you will remember what I said, I think that the golf ball is definitely going to be slowed down by officials, whether it's the USGA, the R&A or the PGA, and the USGA have been very weak, if I may say this, I have great respect for them but they have been very weak in really doing something about this ball.

Because it's getting out of hand to such a degree now you can go to Timbuktu, to Johannesburg, or come to Philadelphia, go to a little golf courses; they are all taking the tees and going back and back and back. And a lot of places, Merion, a great golf course, how much room do they have to go back. If you went to the old Merion and put Tiger Woods on there now he'd go around there with a 4-iron. And the thing is that he'd probably might not use a driver twice a round.

So we have got to -- and Ely Callaway was a brilliant man and never sunk in to the extent that it does now. He said golf is two different games: One, for an amateur and one for a professional. He said the professionals have got to sort of do something about their equipment but the amateurs must be allowed to play golf and enjoy it and have fun because we have three million amateurs coming into the game every year and this is only the United States, and three million going out. If you apply that to business, overheads are vanity; profit is sanity. We're breaking even which is not healthy. That's why we have a (Annika) Sorenstam playing in the golf tournament, it's so important, it's such a refreshing new thing that gets people playing. We have got to come up and invent things and we can because they are there to be invented. To invent these to put into golf tournaments to take care of A, the sponsor and B, the public. And then the media, we have got to do that. Otherwise it becomes stale. So I think that the Champions Tour as far as coming back to Philadelphia and coming to the Ace Club, there's an opportunity.

I know that they do want to have tournaments there. What tournaments, I cannot speak on their behalf. The facilities -- I think I am going to spend two days there on Monday and Tuesday -- is extraordinary. And so let's hope that they do that. The Champions Tour has a lot to offer in that the guys have paid their dues. We played Pro-Ams on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and a Thursday. Not all of us but I played two Pro-Ams a week. Other guys play three and four Pro-Ams a week. We write letters to the people we play with. Young people come out, they see somebody of 60, 68 play, they say, look, at the shape that man's in, he's still playing.

That kid gets a different aspect on life than I got. They look at me and say, look at these guys, man, they are 60, 68 they are in great shape. I can play golf or I can play a sport where I am not going to get old. We have changed the concept of getting old so it -- then you see somebody who is old walking around they can come along and see us play and still play well and break 70 and score your age, it's encouraging. I call this a Tour of encouragement for the world. To set an example of what can be done with the human being's body because you certainly cannot have somebody in football, or in boxing go beyond the ages and really excel, maybe a freak occasionally.

Q. Do you think the younger players on the PGA Tour have an appreciation for all that you and Jack and Arnold and people of that era have done to make life pretty cushy for them now?

GARY PLAYER: Well I think it would be pretty conceited of me to say that they should appreciate it. Also you must understand, when we came along there was Ben Hogan and Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. I was in awe of these people because I realized what they have achieved and we came along with not much better facility and opportunities. The table and the tide has changed. They have come along now and they play now for five to six million a week.

So they have inherited, they have inherited all this money. When you inherit something do you appreciate it to the extent that we did? So I can't put any blame and say, you know, they should be more grateful because I think you have got some wonderful young guys playing the Tour, you really do and some very, very talented guys, but do they appreciate it as much as we did? I don't think so because they inherited, we had to work and build it. And I certainly don't criticize them for that. I understand the situation. But I have nothing but admiration for the young Tour.

JULIUS MASON: Gary Player, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

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