GolfBusinessNews.com talks exclusively to icon of the game and nine-time Major winner, Gary Player, on the eve of the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational at Wentworth Club…
Q: What is the format for the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational at Wentworth?
It follows a similar theme to the other tournaments in the Gary Player Invitational global series which are staged in the USA, China, Japan, Abu Dhabi and South Africa. The events pair golfers from the professional Tours with businessmen, celebrities and international sports figures.
The proceeds from these tournaments and other special events provide funding through The Player Foundation for our beneficiaries including, DepaulUK, the Blair Atholl School in South Africa, the Pleasant City Elementary School in Palm Beach, the Masizame in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, and AIDS infected children in Baoshan, a drug-infested city located on the China-Burma border.
The sole purpose of these events is to raise important funds for our chosen good causes under our global moniker, a union of golf and giving.
Q: Who is Berenberg?
Berenberg was established in 1590 and today is one of Europe’s leading privately owned banks. With its headquarters in Hamburg and strong presences in Frankfurt, London, New York and Zurich it works from 19 offices across Europe, America and Asia. It delivers its expertise through four divisions – private banking, investment banking, asset management and corporate banking.
Q: What is its heritage in golf?
Berenberg has actively supported the sport of golf for many years. From 2010 to 2013, the bank was the principal sponsor of the Berenberg Masters, a widely respected tournament on the European Senior Tour, and was held in Fancourt, South Africa in 2010, at the Cologne Golf and Country Club in Germany in 2011 and 2013, and at the Wörthsee Golf Club in Germany in 2012. Since 2014, the bank has been the main sponsor of the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational in London and New York. I am a brand ambassador for Berenberg, and their portfolio of ambassadors continues with Martin Kaymer, Colin Montgomerie and Branden Grace. Berenberg is simply a huge supporter of golf and charity.
Q: You’re still going strong at 80, and the Gary Player Foundation continues to raise millions of dollars for charitable causes. Is there a target to hit, and by when?
We are aiming for $100 million by 2025. That’s our goal. Since its establishment in 1983 by my son Marc, The Player Foundation has raised more than $62 million to the support of children’s charities, the betterment of impoverished communities and the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the world.
What began as an effort to provide education, nutrition, medical care and athletic activities, for a small community of disadvantaged children living on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, has now blossomed into an organization that circles the globe bringing aid to underprivileged children and impoverished communities.
Q: Why do you feel it is important golf steps up and supports good causes?
Golf certainly does its part in regards to charity. I believe we have raised more money than all other sports combined. The world’s top professional golfers have the opportunity to generate incredible wealth through massive amounts of prize money and endorsements. It is exactly this wealth in professional golf that allows the sport to excel at giving back. It is important golf constantly steps up and makes a difference.
I think this difference comes when you realise the talent you have is really just on loan to you, and can be taken away tomorrow. True success is judged by your relationship with your fellow human beings and that’s why it’s important to always give back.
Q: Tell us more about the charity DepaulUK which receives funds from the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational at Wentworth?
DepaulUK is a wonderful charity doing a very important job. They help young people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, and is based around the UK tackling homelessness at every level. It’s Nightstop UK service offers emergency short-term accommodation in the homes of local volunteers on a night-by-night basis. They helped more than 50,000 young people since it was founded in 1989.
Q: Aside from your impressive charity work, at 80-years-old you are still the figure-head of a successful global business in Black Knight International, run by your son, Marc. Is it not time to slow down? Gary Player in Vietnam
Rest is rust. Retirement is a death warrant. People having to retire from a company when they’re 60 or 65 is hogwash. How could someone tell me I’ve got to retire at 80 when I could still beat most guys under 40 in a fitness contest? How can I retire when I’m still traveling more than most people that ever lived? And how can I retire when I’m still working on my ranch mixing cement, carrying poles, driving a tractor and planting trees? I plan to keep working and helping those in need until the day I die. We do have a
succession plan in place and hope my brand will continue after my death too.
Q: You are also captain of the South African golf team at The Olympics in Rio. There has been much debate around some professional golfers from certain countries deciding not to compete. Is golf as an Olympic sport a nice to have, rather than a need to have?
Firstly, I’m sorry to see some professionals withdrawing from the Olympics. I respect everyone’s reasons for not playing, but I hope that the International Olympic Committee will not remove golf from the games in the future. I would have given anything as a young man to participate in the Olympics. I am very thankful this year to have my chance to walk into the arena in Rio as captain of the South African team.
The Olympics will undoubtedly grow the game worldwide no matter who plays and who doesn’t. So many eyes will see golf on TV that maybe never had the chance to do so before. Many people fought tooth and nail for decades to get golf back in, a true worldwide effort. And we should be showcased on the biggest stage in sports. Golf needs to be an Olympic sport because of its global appeal. Players today make so much money and should be giving back. The Olympics, in my opinion, is one way they can do this since there is no prize money.
Q: Should golf feel confident about its future?
Golf has much to feel positive about. In the professional game we have talented young stars like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and my fellow countrymen, Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen. All are wonderful players and respect the game. Golf is in safe hands.
However, we are facing challenges head on as a sport at the amateur level. There are great initiatives out there encouraging people from all walks of life to try the sport for the first time. We need to continue to think deeply about how we keep golfers coming back round after round.
Q: How would you personally like to be remembered?
I’ve often said I want my epitaph to say, “Here is a man who was interested in his fellow man, in education and health, and he bettered the lives of people around the world.”
Gary Player, thank you very much