April 3, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---It's not just Monday here in Augusta, it's also Gary Player Day. Player is an icon in the world of golf, and he calls Augusta his second home.
Tonight, on the cusp of his 50th Masters appearance, Gary Player took center stage at the Mayor's Reception at the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.
Faith, family and friends. That's what three-time Masters champion Gary Player says has been the key to his success.
Tonight the golf great received recognition in a town he says he's considered home for the past 50 years.
It has been 50 years since pro golfer Gary Player first teed up in Augusta. Three Masters victories and countless national and international golf championships later, he returned to the city on day named in his honor.
As he was honored, the 71-year-old South African native charmed the crowd with favorite memories about his time in Augusta and how special the city has been for many years. During the ceremony, Player was seated beside his wife Vivianne and his caddy from 1974, Eddie McCoy.
As his children and grandchildren looked on, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver presented him with the highest honor, a key to the city.
"I think we just saw a simple act tonight that really showed me something about his true character, that he would ask his 20 year caddie to come up and sit next to him," Mayor Copenhaver said. "That, ladies and gentlemen, is true class and the mark of a great man."
And Player doesn't hesitate letting the world know of his affection for the Garden City. Player considers Augusta, Georgia his second home, but he takes the spirit of Augusta with him wherever he goes. As he waved a happy goodbye, he said, "I love this place so much, I named my house in Johannesburg 'Augusta' and we've had many, many wonderful times there."
Player won his first Masters in 1961 when he beat Arnold Palmer. His prize that year was $20,000. 13 years later, in 1974, he won his second Green Jacket. Four years later, in 1978, he beat three other players by one stroke.
Player has won over 160 golf tournaments around the world. Here's a little known fact: he's an accomplished golf course architect as well. He, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer teamed up to design the 27-hole Champions Retreat course in Columbia County.