Gary Player

South Africa’s Gary Player rolled back the clock to produce another moment of magic at Augusta National on Wednesday. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images/ AFP

Gary Player still in swing of things with US Presidential Medal of Freedom

Following his US Presidential Medal of Freedom award, South African golfing great Gary Player said it was the highest honour he has achieved.

Gary Player

South Africa’s Gary Player rolled back the clock to produce another moment of magic at Augusta National on Wednesday. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images/ AFP

Together with Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, Player will receive the medal from US President Donald Trump on 23 March, becoming the first two international athletes to receive the prestigious award.

“I am incredibly humbled and grateful to be recognised in this way. For Annika and I to join Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnie [Arnold Palmer], Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to have been awarded this honour is really very special.”

Gary Player

Recognition as golfer and philanthropist

Player went on to say that to be honoured, not only for his success as a golfer, but also as a philanthropist who works tirelessly in the United States (US) and around the world to raise funds for children’s education and other causes, is overwhelming:

“I have been fortunate to have had much success in golf and to be a worldwide ambassador for the game, but it is my love of fellow humans that has inspired me to keep travelling and doing what I can to unite people and raise funds for those desperately in need.

“While remaining a proud South African, I have always been overwhelmed by the love and support that I have received from the American people. As an international athlete, to receive the highest honour awarded to civilians in the United States is humbling indeed and I will cherish this award from the president.”

International Ambassador of Golf

Known as the International Ambassador of Golf, Gary Player has won 24 times on the PGA Tour and 19 times on the Champions Tour, including nine majors and nine senior majors, and is one of only five golfers to have achieved the career Grand Slam by winning all four of golf’s majors.

In a career spanning seven decades and with 165 worldwide victories, Player has received numerous awards and accolades: In 1966, he was awarded the Bob Jones Award, the highest honour given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. In 2000, he was voted Sportsman of the 20th Century in South Africa and, in 2006, received the Payne Stewart Award from the PGA Tour.

In 2012, he received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the first international golfer to receive this accolade. And in his home country, South African President Thabo Mbeki bestowed the Order of Ikhamanga (in gold) on Player in 2013 for exceptional achievements in sport.

By African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Michael Sherman