124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Player's Problems: Another View

November 09, 2007

A previous post here covered Gary Player's political problems: At Archbishop Desmond Tutu's urging Nelson Mandela removed himself and his name from Nelson Mandela Invitational hosted by Player and benefiting South African kids. Sponsors also dropped out and the event was cancelled.

That was one side of the story. Golf World reader Daniel M. Wilson II has a different view.


It's extremely difficult to take a shot at Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu and be brief; however, their snub of fellow countryman, Gary Player, for designing a golf course in Burma is outrageous as reported in Golf World. Have they forgotten that he, too, was a target here for the policy of apartheid and as well as an opponent of it?>

His resume is endless: He (Gary) continuously holds charity events all over the world to aid the globe's needy children; he's raised funds for the Mandela Children's fund; he established a school in Johannesburg years ago for the underprivileged; he brought Lee Elder to play golf in South Africa; he helped obtain a visa for Arthur Ashe to play tennis there; he brought the President's Cup to George, South Africa, four years ago, etc.>

(In John Barton's Golf Digest piece on Papwa Sewgolum, Elder was the most understanding toward Player).

Besides his black attire, Gary Player wears many hats: Hall of Famer, course designer; husband/father/doctor (letter); ambassador; but, most of all, humanitarian. Something Mandela and Tutu have obviously forgotten. Not only is that outrageous, but a damn shame as well.>

In his My Shot interview in Golf Digest Player talked about the protesters to which Wilson refers:

Protesters of South Africa's apartheid policy gave me grief for a couple of years. I didn't believe in apartheid and I surely wasn't responsible for it, but I was a ripe target. They threw crushed ice in my eyes. Hit me with telephone books at the top of my backswing. Threw balls on the green while I was putting. Burned awful statements into the greens where we were playing. I got death threats at my hotel every day. At the 1969 PGA Championship, a guy screamed just as I stroked a 10-inch putt, and I missed and lost by one.

At Merion, during the 1971 U.S. Open, we kept guns in the house where I was staying. I struggled through it, and you know something? It's easier to fight than to run away.

It was a tough two years. But Nelson Mandela, who spent over 20 years in prison, had it a whole lot worse.

For more on Player's philanthropic work see the Gary Player Foundation site.

--Bob Carney

(Photo: Ben Van Hook)