Golfing legend Gary Player turns 80

The indefatigable Gary Player turned 80 years this week, somewhere.

True to the globe-hopping life the South African trail blazer and living legend of the game has known for the past six decades, he apparently spent the occasion in the air between the U.S. and Asia – possibly celebrating it twice or even three times as he crossed varying time zones.

The nine-time major champion who forms part of the ‘Big Three’ alongside Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer would have commemorated the moment in time for what it is, just a moment, before forging on with his frenetic life and work schedule. There will be a party, but not for another week.

A lifelong proponent of fitness and clean living, he shows no sign of slowing down and although he spends much of his down time in Florida these days as well as home on the range in South Africa, Player treats the notion of joining the ‘white shoe brigade’ in retirement with scorn.

“Retirement is a death warrant,” Player said recently, “I’m 80 and I’m still the same as when I was 22.“

“I’m still curious to learn, and I don’t believe in retirement. I want to die working.”

If Player takes the time on this occasion to reflect on his journey to this point, Australia is sure to command a special place in his heart for a variety of reasons.

His 1956 Ampol Tournament win at Yarra Yarra started him on this remarkable ride, the 5000 pound winner’s prize bankrolling his career and allowing him to marry his childhood sweetheart, Vivienne. Nearly 60 years later, the pair are still inseparable.

Player still holds the record for the most Australian Open titles (seven) which Golf Australia are sure to feature in their celebrations of the 100th staging of the championship at The Australian Golf Club later this month.

And speaking of celebrations, what does he have in store for that birthday party?

“We’re all gathering at Sun City, where they’ve kindly supplied 300 free rooms and free golf for everyone, so it’s going to be an incredible party,” Player said,

“I’ve got all my family together, including all 22 grandchildren from every corner of the world. I’ve got friends coming from China, America, the Middle East, Britain, everywhere, so it’s going to be wonderful.”