Gary & Vivienne Player Philadelphia Event

Golf legend and Hall of Famer, Gary Player, typically only deals with numbers of five or less as written on a scorecard.

But it’s the numbers the scorecard doesn’t show that tell the golf legend’s true story.

The 86-year-old South African is one of the greatest players of all time, with 18 major championships to his name--nine on the PGA Tour, including the 1962 PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club right here in Newtown Square and nine more on the PGA Tour Champions. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

In a professional career that is about to reach 70 years, Player has, according to his website, piled up over 165 worldwide wins on six continents over seven decades. Although he is retired from competitive golf, he plays regularly. If you’re keeping score at home, he has shot his age or better an astounding 3,045 times, including a record of 16 strokes lower.

A great deal of his appearances these days are philanthropic in nature, including his recent visit to The Union League Liberty Hill in Lafayette, Hill, Pa. where Player and his special guest, Annika Sorenstam, joined generous donors for the inaugural Ambassador Event benefiting The Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation. The event featured a team scramble on the golf course, designed by Player in 2003, followed by an exclusive South African culinary and wine experience as well as a silent auction.

The event allowed the Foundation, which operates both in the U.S. and South Africa, to continue to carry out its mission to positively impact the lives of vulnerable and underprivileged children. It benefited the Episcopal Community Services Out of School Time Program in aid of inner city children in Philadelphia and Place of Hope, a non-profit based in Palm Beach County, Florida, designed to end the cycles of abuse, neglect, homelessness, poverty, and human trafficking.

Player’s daughter, Amanda-Leigh Player Hall, serves as the Foundation’s president and executive director. “One in six children lives in poverty here in the USA. My parents have always been passionate about lifting children out of poverty. Data shows that the best way to do that is through health, housing and education.” The three organizations that The GVPF is currently focused on assisting are providing safe places for children to thrive and breaking the bonds of intergenerational poverty.

Annika Sörenstam eagerly accepted an invite from Player, a long-time friend.

“I’m here to support Gary and Vivienne who have been so great to the game,” Sörenstam said. “It’s a great event for the kids and (Player) is an inspiration to me. We’re lucky to be able to make a difference.”

Like Player, Sörenstam is a part of her sport’s Mt. Rushmore racking up 90 international tournaments as a professional, making her the female golfer with the most wins to her name. She has 72 official LPGA tournament victories including 10 majors.

Seeing Player in and around the Philadelphia region is not much of an anomaly. Player frequents the area to visit his daughter Amanda, who lives in nearby Collegeville. Player said he spends about a month each year with her and her family.

While Player originates from across the Atlantic, he considers himself a Philadelphian in many respects.

So just how Philly are you, Gary?

Can you pronounce Schuylkill River? Check.

Pats or Geno’s? Non-applicable as Player doesn’t really eat meat.

Can you do the Mummer’s Strut? “What’s that?” Player exclaimed.

Have you ever done the Rocky Run at the Art Museum? Check.

Last but not least, are you an Eagles fan? “Hell yeah,” Player said, emphatically. And while he wasn’t sure how the Birds would fair this season, he said he would absolutely root for them if they got to the Super Bowl.

For a man who has played and won at the best courses in the world, he considers several courses in the tri-state area top on his all-time list.

“The Union League Liberty Hill, Aronimink Golf Club, Merion Golf Club and of course Pine Valley,” Player said. “Pine Valley is the best course in the world.” TSG