Player, living up to one of his many monickers as “The International Ambassador of Golf,” is believed to have flown more than 15 million miles traversing the globe to play golf tournaments.
While countryman Bobby Locke preceded him to the PGA Tour, South African Player was the first international star to build a long-term presence on the PGA Tour, while also playing around the world. Along the way, Player won tournaments in 27 consecutive years, and 163 tournaments total worldwide. Player turned pro in 1953 and joined the PGA Tour in 1957. His first major championship win came at the 1959 British Open, and he was the first non-American to win the Masters when he did so in 1961. The PGA Championship followed in 1962, and when Player won the U.S. Open in 1965 he became, at the time, only the third winner of the career grand slam.
The last of Player’s nine majors came at the 1978 Masters, where his final-round 64 propelled him from a 7-shot deficit to a 1-stroke victory.
Player won the South African Open 13 times; the Australian Open seven times; and the World Match Play Championship five times. He continued winning after joining the Senior Tour in 1985 and in 2007 was still playing regularly on the Champions Tour. Off the course, Player worked behind-the-scenes to improve the racial situation in his native South Africa, which for most of his life existed under the shroud of apartheid. He founded The Player Foundation to promote education among his country’s underpriveleged, and the foundation built the Blair Atholl Schools in Johannesburg, which has educational facilities for more than 500 students.
Player is a breeder of racehorses and a designer of golf courses, with more than 200 courses around the world.
Gary Player was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.