At the foot of the great elephant Shawu in The Palace of the Lost City stood a great South African.
Gary Player held back the tears as he thanked a gathering of Sunshine Tour professionals, sports stars, business leaders and friends for the role they have played in the inaugural Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational and for the over R3-million raised for charity.
The longstanding tournament entered a new era this year under the Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation and its drive to raise funds to ensure the financial sustainability of the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School that the Players started on their farm over three decades ago.
It is a journey of golf and giving that Player and his wife Vivienne began together many years ago, and one he now continues on his own with a dedicated team following her passing from cancer last year.
At the age of 87, Player remains as committed as ever to ensure that his legacy is more than just his greatness in golf.
“I was blessed to hold my wife in my arms when she passed. Some of her last words to me were, ‘Gary, don’t forget those kids at Blair Atholl’.
“I had so many wonderful years with Vivienne and I left the table having had a feast. My own life has been an epic journey. All of us will have adversity in our lives, and if you can overcome it with courage, patience and love you will prosper in the end.
“When people ask me, ‘What is your legacy?’, they all think it’s golf. My legacy is not golf. It’s that through golf and through our foundation, we’ve raised over $100-million for underprivileged people. That is my legacy.”
The 36-hole tournament came to a close at the Lost City Golf Course on Sunday and was won on a count-out by the team of Sunshine Tour professional Brooklin Bailey, former Bafana Bafana star Mark Fish and businessmen Anthony Phillips and Ashok Pundit on a total of 187 points.
“It’s been a dream of mine to get trophies handed to me from the greats in the game,” said Bailey. “It’s just so special to be handed a trophy from one of the greats such as Gary Player. He’s an absolute legend and he’s done so much for golf and through his philanthropy. It was a truly special experience.”