Gary Player bids farewell to the US Masters

After spending a year of his life competing at the Masters, golf legend Gary Player made an emotional farewell to the event on Friday with an 18th-green ovation he will always remember.

The 73-year-old South African fired a 11-over par 83 in his last competitive tour of Augusta National Golf Club after a record 52nd Masters start, kneeling as he reached the 18th green to loud cheers for his final goodbye.

“I will never forget that as long as I live. I just went on and on from all sides. It was a feast,” Player said.

“It was hard to focus.
I got to the green and I just couldn’t really focus on my putt. They just went on and on. The message came through of this great love. You are over-awed.”

Player missed his penultimate putt and the cut but none of that seemed to matter to the crowd or the nine-time major champion, who won three Masters green jackets and is among only five men to capture a career Grand Slam.

“It was just so overwhelming,” he said. “I was doing fine until I got to 18 then I got very choked. I saw my family and everybody else.”

Those others included countrymen Rory Sabbatini, defending Masters champion Trevor Immelman and Augusta debutantes Richard Sterne and Louis Oosthuizen.

“I’ve taken a great interest in all our young South Africans,” Player said. “To have these young guys on my last shot of the day to be there and wait for me to come in I say thank you.”

Player, golf’s first globetrotting star who travelled the world to face the game’s greatest players, spent one week a year for 52 years at Augusta—a full year of his life going down Magnolia Lane and among the wind-swept pine trees.

“To be able to play 52 times, to put yourself in the 1% of the world to be healthy, I consider myself lucky,” Player said.

“Coming from a very poor beginning, that gave me the tenacity and desire to be a champion and go to the gym for 63 years and watch my diet.

“It has been an incredible life.”

His thoughts drifted to his father’s hard work to give him a chance to realise his sport dream.

“I think of my father working down in a gold mine 12 000 feet underground for £100 a month supporting us and he got me started in this wonderful game,” Player said. “I can only say that
I love him very much.”

Player won green jackets in 1961, 1974 and 1978 and recalled that his homeland had almost no televisions to view his first Masters triumph and that the plane flight from home to the Masters took 40 hours and made five stops.

Player will take part in senior tournaments, design golf courses and enjoy his ranch, vowing not to be bored.

When asked about his Masters legacy, Player pointed to his endurance.

“I’d like to think I’ve played with tenacity, never given up even on a single shot, to the last putt I hit,” he said. - AFP

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