Player will lead SA golf team to Rio Olympics

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

Gary Player will cap­tain South Africa’s first Olympic golf team that will com­pete in Rio de Janeiro next year.

The an­nounce­ment was made at the Soweto Coun­try Club in Pimville yesterday where the for­mer grand slam win­ner was made an honorary life mem­ber.

A golf day was held at the venue to celebrate his achieve­ments as one of the coun­try’s great­est sport­ing am­bas­sadors.

Player (79) won more than 165 tour­na­ments world­wide in an il­lus­tri­ous 63-year pro­fes­sional ca­reer in which he won nine ma­jors.

This will be the first time Mzansi will send a golf team to the Olympics.

Player’s cap­taincy was made of­fi­cial by the SA Golf As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Sun­shine Tour ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sel­wyn Nathan, the vet­eran was cho­sen to lead the squad be­cause of his track record on the fair­ways.

“Gary is the coun­try’s great golf am­bas­sador, so it is fit­ting for him to be cho­sen the skip­per of the coun­try’s Olympic golf team,” he said.

Nathan said in­ter­na­tional play­ers Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace had been drafted into the squad be­cause of their im­pres­sive stand­ings on the latest world rank­ings. Oosthuizen is placed 13th, while Grace’s name ap­pears in the 28th spot.

The rest of the squad will be an­nounced from De­cem­ber 30 un­til April next year.

Player said he was hon­oured to be given the op­por­tu­nity to lead the coun­try.

“I am de­lighted to ac­cept the cap­taincy and look for­ward to lead­ing our top pro­fes­sion­als on the fair­ways of the Rio Olympics next year.

“This is such a big mo­ment for our coun­try and for the game of golf,” he said.

Player cap­tained the in­ter­na­tional team for the Pres­i­dents Cup in 2003 and 2007. He also made sev­eral ap­pear­ances for South Africa in the World Cup of Golf.

Golf has only ap­peared twice at the Olympics Games – in 1900 and 1904, with the US, Canada and the UK com­pet­ing.

PHOTO: DY­LAN MARTINEZ / REUTERS PHOTO: LUKE WALKER / GALLO IM­AGES

BIG HITTER Louis Oosthuizen

PHOTO: STREETER LECKA / GETTY IM­AGES

YOUNG TAL­ENT Branden Grace

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