GURGAON: Golf legend Gary player, who is in India to design a golf course for DLF, might not have even played golf but for his father’s insistence. Player was equally good in cricket, soccer and Rugby as a schoolboy. But dad Harry noticed Gary’s felicity with the golf club and the hardworking gold miner managed to get a loan to buy his son a golf kit. “And I’m ever grateful to him for doing that,” Player told TOI on Thursday.
But surely, you have kept in touch with cricket too, one asked the famed South African, now 76. “Of course, I do,” he replied, and hastily added, “You should know Sachin Tendulkar is my hero. He is too good. Among South African players, I like Jacques Kallis. But for me, anyone who is better than Don Bradman will be the best.”
Player brought in Tendulkar once more into the conversation while illustrating a point about golf. “Golf is a unique sport because it gives you a chance to play and win over a long period of time. Golfers have a bigger career span than any other sportsperson. You know, Tendulkar is a freak of nature to have played cricket for so long. But even he won’t go beyond 40 which means he will play for about two more years. But in golf, you can continue playing well beyond 50. I won my last pro title at 62,” he said.
When asked what were the biggest changes in golf he has seen happening over the years, the ‘Black Knight’ offered, “Prize money. I won about $80,000 for my three Masters titles. Today, that will fetch someone $4.2 million. Then, golf equipment has become 10 times better and the greens have become so much better, like a snooker table. Today, the top golfers move around in private jets. I used to travel with my six kids and it took me 40 hours to reach US from Johannesburg.”
The greatest ever golfer for him? “If you ask me, BenHogan and Sam Snead. But you can’t really compare golfers from different era although competition has always been fierce. Presently, I think Rory McIlroy is the best. He has got unbelievable talent. But does he have the passion to be an alltime great? Does he work hard enough, does he sleep well…? And I hope Tiger(Woods) makes a comeback as he is very important for golf.”
Talking about golf in India, Player, the winner of a mindboggling 165 pro titles over five decades and who revers Mahatma Gandhi, stressed, “To help golf grow, you must take it to the schools. Encourage more and more children to play. The golf clubs should allocate some time exclusively for the kids.”
You know, Tendulkar is a freak of nature to have played cricket for so long. But even he won’t go beyond 40… But in golf, you can continue playing well beyond 50.