It all began at the 1962 United States Golf Association (USGA) when Gary Player was walking up to the final hole. He turned to USGA director Joey Dey and said: “Had I won, Joe, I planned on giving the prize money to charity. But let’s keep that a secret. One day I shall win, and turn back the money to a good cause. That is a promise.”
That promise was fulfilled three years later at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, after an 18-hole playoff between Player and Australian Kel Nagle. Upon being handed the winner’s cheque, Gary handed it back to Joe Dey specifying that the proceeds should go to cancer research and the development of junior golf programs by the USGA. “There is enormous satisfaction that can be derived from giving something back to the world in moments of success,” says Player.
Those were the seeds of what came to be the Gary Player Foundation, which was founded in 1983. Inspired by his father’s lifelong efforts to give back, Player meant to address the education crisis in South Africa. He soon realised that the need for quality education far extended beyond the countryside of Johannesburg.
The Foundation was born and grew to provide for less fortunate children around the world. They have raised $62 million to support education initiatives worldwide. Here are some of the highlights of the work they have done:
The Blair Atholl School is now a self-sufficient entity with a matriculation of more than 500 students. In addition to the education efforts, The Player Foundation provides a feeding scheme, medical and dental care, transport services, adult education and training, and a number of recreational facilities. It is the school’s policy that education moves beyond the four walls of the classroom and therefore the school provides a variety of activities in which the students can participate. These include sport activities, choir, violin, and piano. The school has partnered with The World of Golf in Johannesburg to encourage and allow students to learn the game of golf. Students are able to take lessons, play on a regular basis and take annual trips to The World of Golf headquarters.
The mission of Christel House is to help children around the world break the cycle of poverty and become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. It aligns itself perfectly with the ethos behind The Player Foundation. On 14 June 2004, golfers at twenty courses; located in 11 countries on five different continents and spanning 20 time zones; participated in the Christel House Open. The game commenced with the morning tee-off in India and concluded as the last ball was putted into the 18th hole before sunset in Hawaii. The winning foursome from each site qualified to compete in the new World Championship event, held August 30-31, 2004, at The Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, California – a course designed by tournament host Gary Player.
In 2005, The Player Foundation adopted this school. Whilst only footsteps away from the affluent Palm Beach area, Pleasant City – the oldest African American community in Palm Beach County – located in the heart of West Palm Beach, is known for drugs, violence and crime. The school was established to provide a safe haven and quality educational foundation for children of this community. The school was selected due to the history of the area, the true dedication of the school’s staff to reunite the once flourishing community, and the similarities in needs with the Blair Atholl School located in South Africa.
Baoshan city in Yunnan province is located near the China-Burma border and it has become one of the drug traffic routes of the Gold Triangle. Due to the close proximity to Dehong city, there is a large population of drug users and sex workers, resulting in an AIDS epidemic. In recent years, the AIDS epidemic has become more and more serious and widespread, and the situation continues to deteriorate year by year. As a result of the increase of infection and death of AIDS patients, the number of orphaned children has grown dramatically. The Gary Player Invitational in China has selected this organization as its beneficiary. The rampant spread and effect of AIDS on the children in China, along with the national support of the organization, made this a good fit for the Foundation.
With its three-decade legacy, The Player Foundation’s future includes reaching the goal of raising $100 million to strengthen impoverished areas and bring hope to those living in abject poverty.
For more information, visit The Gary Player Foundation website.