KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Golf legend Gary Player, the winner of nine major championships and nine senior major titles, reflected in a wide-ranging interview his thoughts upon returning to Kiawah Island, where he designed the resort's first course and on competing, May 22-27, in the 68th Senior PGA Championship at The Ocean Course.
Q: You have a long history with Kiawah Island, building the resort's first golf course back in 1976. Now you're returning to compete in the Senior PGA Championship at The Ocean Course. What are your impressions of the resort?
GARY PLAYER: First of all, I think Kiawah Island is one of the most beautiful golf resorts in the world today. They have a great assortment of golf clubs. Where we're playing the tournament (The Ocean Course) is really a wonderful test of golf and a most enjoyable golf course.
Q: You were here in 2001 for the UBS Warburg Cup. What can you tell us of The Ocean Course?
GARY PLAYER: I found the course so beautiful. There's something about the place — the ambiance is so fantastic.
Q: When you played the UBS Warburg Cup, it was a match-play event. What do you think about playing a stroke-play event on The Ocean Course?
GARY PLAYER: It's a very, very different deal. It's an extremely tough test of golf. And it will certainly bring the best golfer to the fore.
Q: Golf Digest recently named it "America's Toughest Course." What makes the course so difficult? How do you attack a course like this?
GARY PLAYER: There's a lot of trouble around. You have some very deep bunkers and great difficulties. However, I don't agree with their selecting it as the most difficult. I'd say probably Augusta National is the most difficult.
Q: How has Kiawah Island Golf Resort evolved since the early days?
GARY PLAYER: It's gotten better and better and better. The service is go good and they're so courteous. The resort has such a great naturally beautiful environment with wildlife abounding. The whole island is such a special place. I had my family including some of my grandchildren there in 2001. I'm really looking forward to coming back.
Q: You've won the Senior PGA Championship three times. You've also won the Open Championship and Masters three times, the PGA Championship twice and the U.S. Open once. How does winning a major compare to winning a normal PGA or Champions Tour event?
GARY PLAYER: My Grand Slam on the Champions Tour is a better effort than my Grand Slam on the regular tour. On the regular tour, I had 35 years to win the Grand Slam, but I only had about 8 or 9 years to do it on the Champions Tour. I'm the only one who has won the Grand Slam with the Senior British Open in it. So, it's pretty nice to be the only man on the planet who has done that. For me, it was a much better effort. People who play the Champions Tour understand how tough it is and they'll appreciate what I'm saying. (Player won the Senior British Open in 1997. The event was designated a Senior Major in 2003.)
Q: You are widely regarded and justly so, as the fittest golfer of your generation. And, your longevity in the game is highly admired. Do you feel that there is any of your example rubbing off on other players who reach 50? If so, are they also trying to extend their careers?
GARY PLAYER: There's no question that it's got to have some influence on them just as Sam Snead had a great influence on me as the greatest athlete to ever play golf. I'm hoping it will have an influence – however, my great dream is to have an influence on the youth of the world, not just the seniors. I want the youth to see a man of 71 playing at Augusta and on the second day beat 31 guys and tied 25 so it's a total of 56 that I tied or beat at 71. So, maybe they'll say that if I look after myself, I can play golf a long, long time. That doesn't apply to any other sport.
Q: Any final impressions on facing The Ocean Course in the Senior PGA Championship?
GARY PLAYER: At my age, it's a toughie, but I hold The PGA of America in great esteem. The PGA has done so much for golf – all PGAs around the world – in encouraging the youth to take up the game. There's an old saying that "the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity." So, we've got to put our efforts into the youth and they've done that appropriately.
The 68th Senior PGA Championship at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort will feature some of the greatest names in the history of golf. The field includes defending Champion Jay Haas, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Kite, Gil Morgan, Nick Price, Loren Roberts, Craig Stadler, Curtis Strange, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, 1991 U.S. Ryder Cup Team members Hale Irwin, Chip Beck, Raymond Floyd, Wayne Levi, Mark O'Meara, Lanny Wadkins and Captain Dave Stockton; as well as '91 European Team members Seve Ballesteros, Mark James and Sam Torrance.
Since 1937, golf's best senior professionals have been competing for the Senior PGA Championship's coveted Alfred S. Bourne Trophy. Past Champions include Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, as well as returning players Floyd, Irwin, Player and Watson. The Senior PGA Championship, the oldest and most prestigious event in senior golf, is making its first appearance in South Carolina.
For tickets or to download a "spectator's guide," please visit www.SeniorPGA2007.com or contact the Senior PGA Championship Office at (843) 768-8575. Tickets may also be purchased at any Charleston area visitor center or at the tournament office on Kiawah Island. For more information on The Ocean Course, visit http://www.kiawahresort.com/. For high-res images of specific players in the 68th Senior PGA Championship field, contact Mike Vegis at firstname.lastname@example.org or (843) 768-2749.
The PGA of America is the world's largest working sports organization, comprised of 28,000 men and women golf Professionals who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf while serving millions of people throughout its 41 PGA Sections nationwide. Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has enhanced its leadership position in a $62 billion-a-year industry by growing the game of golf through its premier spectator events, world-class education and training programs, significant philanthropic outreach initiatives, and award-winning golf promotions. Today's PGA Professional is the public's link to the game, serving an essential role in the operation of golf facilities throughout the country.