Gary Player demonstrates his fitness regime during the British Open at Royal Lytham in 1992 (Getty Images).
What with his course design work, his time zone-crossing travel as a global golf ambassador, and the 30 billion crunches he reels off every morning, Gary Player keeps a busy docket.
No way he’s got the bandwidth for a studio project, right?
And yet..here it is.
Like Johnny Cash, that other Man in Black, Player has released a DVD box set.
Spanning four hours and composed of three discs, "Gary Player: A Game for Life" explores the methods and the mindset of a man who won nine majors and 165 tournaments around the world.
As you might expect, there’s plenty of golf instruction. But this is not your standard how-to video.
Yes, there’s a lot of sand work from a guy widely regarded as the greatest bunker player of all time (for softer, higher shots, strengthen your left hand grip and, voila, more loft), and exercise tips, and oodles of insights into the swing (rotation, wristcock, that trademark Player walk-through).
But Player also takes off on an array of tangents. With broadcaster Peter Kessler as his interlocutor, he does a light-hearted Lee Trevino impression (note: he’s better at the swing than he is the voice), muses on the benefits of travel (a better education, he says, “than a Harvard degree”) and explains why a flying right elbow isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In the end, though, serious Player-ologists will find things most entertaining when the Black Knight moves from the golf course to the kitchen and morphs instantly into Jacques Pepin.
With his wife, Vivienne, serving as his sous chef, Player, 77, oversees the production of the morning jumpstart that he says has helped keep him young: a vegetable juice made of celery, mint, kale, spinach, apples, Brussels sprouts, parsley, you name it. Anything green he can get his hands on.
If Peter Rabbit had a Vitamix, this is what he’d drink.
(As for some of Player’s other dietary habits - “Sometimes I’ll just take a bite of a lemon,” he says, doing just that - it’s hard to think of another creature who mimics him.)
Player has never been bashful with opinions or advice, and like every sporting legend, he’s not shy on self-regard.
But this is not a display of overbearing ego, and even though he tells you that you “must” put turmeric on your salads, you believe him when also says he isn’t trying to lecture.
He just really eager to share what he has learned.
The Player that comes through is a friendly, sincere spokesman for a healthy lifestyle and an upbeat attitude. There’s a homespun earnestness to his manner, with none of the sourness that seeps from certain others who have won more majors.
After so many years, and so many interviews, Player remains an affable fellow who, it just so happens, can’t sit still.
What keeps him going?
Relocated from the kitchen to the living room and a hide-bound chair fit for Masterpiece Theatre, Player turns to life philosophy.
The word “retirement,” he says, should be banished from our vocabulary, because once you retire, “you start to die.”
Player’s not there yet. Nowhere close.
But he has contemplated the inevitable, and he even has a draft of his epitaph.
When his time finally comes, many thousands of air miles and liquid breakfasts from now, this is the message he says he’d like to leave: “I knew it would eventually happen but I tried to contribute to society and I loved people.”
That’s a hefty mouthful for a single headstone.
But no matter. Player says he wants to be cremated anyway.
“Gary Player: A Game for Life” is available on amazon.com for $99.
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