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An Interview With Golf Champion Gary Player

Quest Bulgaria recently had the opportunity to interview Gary Player the world famous, and one of the most successful Golf champions in history about his life and achievements and this is what he had to say:

1. How old were you when you first took an interest in playing Golf?

I was involved in many sports as a child and enjoyed boxing, cricket, and rugby. I didn't take up golf until I was 14 when my dad took me to play at the public course near our home.

2. When did you decide to play professionally?

I became obsessed with the game after that first round of golf with my dad, and it didn't take long for me to want to become a world champion.

And were you given encouragement and support from your family?

My mother died when I was 8, but I received huge support the rest of my family, especially my father. He wrote to Augusta National to encourage an invitation from the Masters, which I received in 1957.

3. How much training and personal dedication was required to pursue a career in Golf?

A tremendous amount. My father and older brother Dr. Ian Player taught me that hard work and dedication were the keys to success and I never forgot it. I was incredibly driven, and I practiced non-stop. I met my wife through golf when we were teenagers - she was and is still an excellent player. Her father was a pro and he gave me wonderful training and encouragement.

4. Over the years golf has had the reputation among many as being a rich man's sport, do you now think that this attitude is changing in a way that it can now be appreciated and participated by all?

I do think it is changing, but the attitude needs to come from all parts of the game. For example as a golf course designer, I am very pleased to create courses in emerging markets like Bulgaria, Poland, and China. These venues introduce the game to a huge population that may have never expected to play golf. Golf will be in the Olympics in 2016, which should also help to bring the game to a larger segment of the population. Golf is a fantastic sport and I hope that the game continues to grow.

5. How would you define a good Golf player?

There are many good golfers, but few truly great ones. There are three dimensions to becoming a world champion: skill, mental toughness and physical fitness. Unfortunately too many pros and amateurs forget two of these - mental toughness and physical fitness. Look at Tiger Woods - he has dominated the world for the better part of the last twelve years. He has a great mind for golf because he doesn't let his emotions affect his game and he has always is in top physical condition. And how about Rory McIlroy? He overcame a very difficult experience at The Masters and used it to make himself mentally stronger. His win at the US Open was impressive and is another example of how important the mental aspect of golf is. Everyone should also pay close attention to their diet. Eating a proper diet is essential to play great golf and for your health.

6. You have won countless titles in your golfing career, do you have any advice to help others considering turning professional and following your path?

• Practice, practice and more practice. You need to work harder than everyone else to become a champion.
• A positive attitude - as I mentioned the mental aspect of the game is incredibly important and too often overlooked. If you believe you will win, then you will win. If you doubt yourself you will lose.
• Diet, health and fitness - if eat a proper diet and exercise regularly you will play better golf.

7. What made you decide to design golf courses around the world?

I played competitively around the world, and loved it. I believe that my experiences with different cultures, religions and customs was the best education I could have ever received and I wanted my golf course design business to reflect my competitive career. I also want to help grow the game through our design business as I felt that I did during my career.

8. How much promotion do you give to a country where Golf is relatively new and unknown?

Golf can be a great catalyst for tourism. Golfers for the most part are willing to spend money in the countries they visit and that positively affects all aspects of tourism; hotels, restaurants, family activities, etc... Scotland is a perfect example; golf tourists visiting to play those famous courses bring hundreds of millions of dollars tothe Scottish economy every year.

9. You have designed two courses on the northern coast of the Black Sea in Bulgaria which are Thracian Cliffs and BlackSeaRama, and you have also helped in the development of the Primorska golf course on the southern Black Sea coast. Do you see potential for the sport to grow in popularity in Bulgaria?

I have really enjoyed coming to Bulgaria, and I have no doubt that the game of golf will grow there. The Bulgarian Golf Association has been instrumental in attracting golfers and tournaments, and its efforts will have a real impact on the growth of the game.

10. Recently you made the comment that Thracian Cliffs is the most beautiful of your courses in the world, and having travelled the world yourself, what makes it so outstanding?

I have never seen a course, and I really don't think one exists, where you can see the sea from every hole. It is probably the most dramatic site we have ever worked on and the white cliffs contrast beautifully against the Black Sea. I am very proud of our accomplishments at Thracian Cliffs.

11. How does it feel to be able to give other people around the world the opportunity to pursue a sport that has providedan outstanding career and life for you?

Golf has enabled me to live the life I dreamed about. I often say that my talent has been loaned to me, so I am determined to give back to the game and leave a legacy. I've designed over 300 golf courses around the world, and it is very gratifying to know that they bring so many people so much pleasure.

12. Can you tell us about your other businesses in the sporting industry that have developed from your outstanding career in Golf, and have you always been business minded?

There was a gifted gentleman named Mark McCormack who founded and built the sports agency called IMG, which is still in business today. He was a genius in representing athletes, and I was his second client. Mark taught me the business of golf and I caught on pretty well. The Gary Player Group is involved in golf course design, real estate, apparel, wine, and many other business interests. I also represent a number of major corporations around the world.

13. Do you think the Golfing industry has been affected by the recession that has hit many countries worldwide?

Yes. The golfing industry and the golf course design industry have been hit particularly hard, especiallyin North America. There are positive signs in Asia, especially in China and India. The Middle East has also seen increased activity and I expect golf to become more popular in South America as a result of the 2016 Olympics coming to Brazil.

14. Do you have any plans for the future or do you now feel it is time to relax after such an amazing career in the sport that you love?

I don't plan on retiring any time soon. I still love traveling, designing golf courses, raising funds for underprivileged children's education through The Player Foundation and working with the global companies I represent.

Relaxation for me is working on my farm in the Great Karoo in South Africa. We raise thoroughbred race horses and I love working with the horses and around the farm. Thank goodness I am fit and full of energy.

Quest Bulgaria would like to thank Gary Player for participating in this interview and providing images, for more information visit: www.garyplayer.com