f ever Gary Player’s exuberance for life is needed to inspire his country, it will be at 80 years old in Rio as captain of the SA Olympic golf team. Player is still a giant gure in golf around the globe, and as the sport makes its return to the Games after a 112-year absence, he should lead our athletes in the opening ceremony as recognition for his career, and continued promotion of South Africa during his travels as a global icon.
It won’t be the rst time Player has attended the Olympics.As a 21-year-old he was at the Melbourne Games in 1956 where he met legendary American sprinter Jesse Owens, there as a representative of US president Dwight Eisenhower. “I’ve always held the Olympics in high esteem, because it brings people of the world together,” said Player.“My great president, Nelson Mandela, said sport can help change the world, and that’s absolutely true.
“You’re getting nations having wars against each other suddenly competing against each other and, realising, why are we ghting each other? We should all be enjoying each other’s di erent systems of government and beliefs. So the Olympics are signi cant in my life.”
Since Player was announced as South Africa’s golf captain, the make-up of his team has changed radically. Star players Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Lee-Anne Pace have all withdrawn for ‘personal reasons’ or fears of the Zika virus.
After Grace’s announcement, Player released a statement of his own: “Obvi-