Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life -

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-

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