The Loop

Gary Player tells the story of the back flip seen 'round the world

July 18, 2017

SOUTHPORT, England -- I'm not proud of the fact that I ate a cookie in front of Gary Player, but it wasn't just any cookie. It was chocolate chip with a coating of milk chocolate on the bottom, which I thought made it too interesting to pass up.

Also in my defense -- and you might need to sit down when I tell you this -- Gary Player ate one first. I swear on a stack of Kit-Kats. And even more stunning is that after I ate mine, the 81-year-old fitness and health marvel went in for round No. 2. At that point, I couldn't resist asking him about it.

"Well, I worked out today," Player said. "And when I work out, I work out."

Fair enough. By far my biggest source of exercise was walking up two flights of stairs to meet the nine-time major champ for lunch. And I was glad I did because we had a nice chat that ran the gamut of him talking about attending Roger Federer's Wimbledon win last week to discussing Tiger Woods' return prospects to recalling the time Player withdrew from an Open at Royal Birkdale because he ate some bad jerky. But more importantly, I asked him about his recent back flip seen 'round the world.

You know the one. And if you haven't seen it by now, here's Player doing a back flip off a boat. Reminder: He's 81.

Turns out, it was part of a big 80th birthday celebration for Player's wife, Vivienne. Player said 40 family members gathered in Thailand, including a large contingent of grandchildren. One kid doing a back flip led to another. And another. And another. And at some point, Gary was urged to give it a try.

Eventually, the nine-time major champ decided to go for it. But not before he did a lot of stretching. And not before, as he pointed out, some of the kids chickened out. I decide not to tell Player that I definitely would have fallen into that group.

"People don't realize, that's a lot of mass and stress to put on your body," Player said. "Your back can just go out."

Thankfully, Player's didn't. And as a result, he has even more of a case to be invited to #SB2K18.

"Now, I'm thinking about tight-roping," he said. "That's my next challenge!"

I can't tell if he's kidding. But I am fairly certain that Gary Player doing various stunts around the world would make for an entertaining reality TV series.