Golf leg­end Gary Player talks about the chang­ing na­ture of busi­ness travel after another suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing in­vi­ta­tional in Abu Dhabi

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

Gary Player talks about the chang­ing na­ture of busi­ness travel after another suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing in­vi­ta­tional in Abu Dhabi

It’s said that you’ve racked up an as­ton­ish­ing 26 mil­lion kilo­me­tres in air travel, which is more than any other ath­lete. How have you found the chang­ing na­ture of travel – is it more en­joy­able, and eas­ier, now? What do you most like and dis­like about the travel ex­pe­ri­ence? It’s like night and day. When I first started trav­el­ling in the 1950s from South Africa to play tour­na­ments in Amer­ica, it took more than 40 hours. Can you imag­ine that? It was the only way to get there – and I wasn’t fly­ing first-class, but in coach. If I wanted to lay down flat, I would tell the per­son next to me they could have the row if they put they feet up and not kick me on the floor. Air travel to­day is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. You aren’t stop­ping and chang­ing planes four times. To­day, I can get from South Africa to Amer­ica or Ja­pan on a non-stop di­rect flight. Does that mean you’re a loyal fre­quent flyer mem­ber or va­ri­ety is the spice of life? I have a re­la­tion­ship with many air­lines but that doesn’t al­ways dic­tate my flight. For the Gary Player In­vi­ta­tional in Abu Dhabi, one of our spon­sors was Eti­had Air­ways. My good­ness, it was some of the best ser­vice I ever re­ceived. My wife and I have cer­tain air­ports we like to fly into be­cause the ser­vice is so good and flights are sel­dom de­layed. We are very loyal trav­ellers, so nat­u­rally we expect loyal ser­vice. How much of your travel is re­lated to course de­signs, and is it dif­fer­ent be­ing a ‘busi­ness trav­eller’ to­day com­pared with when you were trav­el­ling as a play­ing pro­fes­sional? I think of it the same way. Trav­el­ling as a pro­fes­sional, golf was my busi­ness. It’s the same to­day, where a big part of our Black Knight In­ter­na­tional busi­ness is golf course de­sign. I travel

all over the world through­out the year for site vis­its and golf course open­ings. It’s my se­cond ca­reer. I’m proud I’m still work­ing hard.

Do you think cur­rent pros have it easy or are the chal­lenges that come with the job – be­ing away from home and liv­ing out of a suit­case – time­less? Is the wel­fare of play­ers taken more se­ri­ously th­ese days?

No mat­ter what era we are in, be­ing away from one’s fam­ily is not easy. The only dif­fer­ence is they can travel with their fam­ily much eas­ier than decades ago. Imag­ine trav­el­ing more than 40 hours, mak­ing sev­eral stops with six small chil­dren and hav­ing no dis­pos­able di­a­pers. Ei­ther way, be­ing away from your fam­ily does take a toll on your psy­che. You think about your fam­ily all the time. Even the sim­ple things – such as if you’re baby has learned a new word. It’s hard, but it’s im­pos­si­ble to travel with them to ev­ery tour­na­ment.

Are golfers paid too much or it’s just re­wards – and have spon­sor­ship rev­enues been a pos­i­tive force in rais­ing grass-roots golf?

Golfers owe all their wealth to our spon­sors. But I be­lieve we are com­ing to a tip­ping point where golfers are ask­ing for too much. We need to do more to give back. I am so thank­ful for my spon­sors like Beren­berg, SAP, Rolex and many oth­ers that have sup­ported me dur­ing my 64-year ca­reer. I must at­tribute a lot of my suc­cess to their back­ing. Grat­i­tude is es­sen­tial.

How many in­vi­ta­tion­als do you host each year? Do you find them fun or is it hard work trav­el­ling and or­gan­is­ing?

We host six char­ity events around the world each year start­ing in Abu Dhabi (this year was the se­cond in a five-year agree­ment) and then mov­ing to Tokyo, Lon­don, New York, Hong Kong and fin­ish­ing in Sun City. Our team does an out­stand­ing job bring­ing sports stars and busi­ness lead­ers from all over the world to sup­ports the cause. The Gary Player In­vi­ta­tional global se­ries is all about giv­ing back to the coun­tries where we hold the tour­na­ments.

At Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Beach Golf Club last month, we raised AED183,000 for the Zayed Higher Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Hu­man­i­tar­ian Care & Spe­cial Needs, which pro­vides a range of in­te­grated ser­vices de­signed to re­ha­bil­i­tate dis­abled peo­ple into the com­mu­nity. Abu Dhabi Sports Coun­cil, Eti­had Air­ways, TDIC, Park Hy­att Abu Dhabi, SAP and Rolex were our key sup­port­ers and spe­cial guests in­cluded Dar­ren Clarke and Trevor Im­mel­mann, cricket greats Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara, as well as Boy­zlife singers Brian McFad­den and Keith Duffy. Ex­er­cise is es­sen­tial for ev­ery hu­man on the planet to live a healthy life so the funds raised in Abu Dhabi are be­ing used to build a gym­na­sium, which is fan­tas­tic. Peo­ple can read more about the in­vi­ta­tion­als at gary­play­er­in­vi­ta­

Not many peo­ple may know that The Player Foun­da­tion had raised more than $63 mil­lion for char­i­ties worldwide. Did you al­ways think it would be a suc­cess? What lessons can oth­ers learn in rais­ing money for char­i­ties?

My son, Marc, first es­tab­lished The Player Foun­da­tion in 1983 to help ed­u­cate poor chil­dren out­side of Jo­han­nes­burg. He cer­tainly had the vi­sion of what we could ac­com­plish, and we con­tinue to grow and help more peo­ple ev­ery year. The main les­son to take away from our Foun­da­tion and GPI events is if you have an op­por­tu­nity to give back to the world, act. It may not present it­self to you in such an ob­vi­ous way, but it’s out there and not hard to find.

Which player would you tip in 2017?

Can Rory McIl­roy com­plete the ca­reer Grand Slam at this year’s Masters? Can Hen­rik Sten­son win another Ma­jor? I am hope­ful our tal­ented South African golfers like Charl Schwartzel can bring another Ma­jor home. There are so many tal­ented play­ers right now from all over the world that 2017 is go­ing to be a fun year.

When I first started trav­el­ling in the 1950s from South Africa to play tour­na­ments in Amer­ica, it took more than 40 hours. Can you imag­ine that?

Above: Tee­ing off at the UAE’s se­cond Gary Player In­vi­ta­tional at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

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