On this week’s episode, the Stick and Hack crew is excited to bring you our conversation with Mr. Gary Player. Gary Player is one of the most successful golfers in history and one of only five players to win golf’s career grand slam. He completed the grand slam in 1965 at the age of 29 and now at the age of 85, he joins Mike and Adam for an in depth conversation on the history of golf, the future of golf, and everything in between. This is one that you don’t want to miss!

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.

S/H: There’s a video of you running on a treadmill on your Instagram and you are running as fast as I’ve ever seen anybody run. Your caption on that Instagram post was “It’s important to train your mind and your body to move fast as you age. Don’t give yourself limits, keep working and keep moving.” That’s how you’ve lived your life for a long long time isn’t it? 

Mr. Gary Player: Well I’m 85 years of age now and honestly, my mind thinks I’m 50. It’s interesting, the mind is a fascinating thing. The mind is what determines everything that happens in our life; whether you’re happy or you’re sad or you’re positive or you’re negative and this is what you’ve got to work on is that mind which I do every single day. I eat well and I exercise. I keep my body moving all the time. 

Now my genes aren’t all that great. My mother died of cancer when I was nine, my sister died of cancer, my daughter had her breast removed, my wife right now has pancreatic cancer, so there’s been a lot of cancer in our family tree. But I think if you exercise and you eat properly, which is easier to get a camel through the eye of the needle than to get the average day man to do these things because you live in America, the greatest country ever. You live in a land of milk and honey and that is to your detriment. It’s so such a great country I’ve never seen anything like it. Life is great. You have the choice. You can be happy or you can be sad. It’s amazing how many people choose sad. Not me, life is great. I love people, I love my work.

It’s only when you realize that you don’t have your health, that’s when you realize how great life is and one of the things they’ve got to do in America, they’ve got to make children exercise. I don’t think there’s a school in America that teaches children how to eat properly. You’ve got to teach the people and give them the right education. This is such a phenomenal country and you’ve got to look after it because all the great empires of the world collapse by taking it for granted. If you think you’re too good at a sport and you don’t have to practice or you’ve got a business and you don’t work harder, you’re going to lose and if you don’t look after this country you’re going to lose. Everybody’s got to play their part.

S/H: Mr. Player, you’re famous for many things but one of them is that you’re constantly working on your golf swing and trying to learn about the golf swing. Are you still learning about the golf swing at your age?

GP: I’m not really learning much anymore at 85. I’ve tried every conceivable thing but the best player I ever saw was Ben Hogan and he’s the only man I ever met that knew the swing from A to Z. Now, I’ve met a lot of people that know the swing A to W or A to Y but Ben Hogan, he mentioned a couple of things to me that enabled me to win 18 majors at 165 tournaments. That was not the only reason but it played a part. To be a champion is a puzzle, you’ve got a lot of pieces in the puzzle. Determination, loving adversity, keeping in shape, being happy, being positive. All these things go to making a champion and I think the greatest leader of all time was Winston Churchill. 

Young people come to me regularly, “How do I become a champion?” Men and women. I said, “I can’t tell you that. It’s a thing called ‘it’ and what is ‘it’? No analyst or psychiatrist can tell you what ‘it’ is. It’s a divine gift. I’ve only seen in my 85 years about plus or minus 12 players that have had ‘it’. Winston Churchill so aptly said when they asked him about his success, “the height that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, that while his opponents were sleeping he was toiling up within the night.” And that’s what you got to do. You’ve got to outwork the other guy. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you want to be a good husband you’ve got to put effort into it, if you want to be a great athlete, if you want to be a great role model, whatever it is.

S/H: Let’s talk about your friendships. Golf is known for how it bonds people together and great friends for lifetimes have been made on the golf course and you can make a friend immediately just by sharing a round of golf. It’s a crazy sport and a leisure activity where you can go and meet a complete stranger and play golf. The easy friends that you’ve made are Arnie and Jack, there’s no doubt about, that but you’ve made hundreds and hundreds of friends through the game of golf. What do those friendships and relationships mean to you today?

GP: The friends I’ve made all around the world have been incredible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lady sweeping the airport, I’ll go up to her and put my arm around her and say “Gee, it’s so good to see you keeping this airport so clean, thank goodness we’ve got you.” Make people feel important, give them love. If they give you hate, give them love back. You can’t believe the hatred that people have in this world, but you mustn’t let that override you. You must think of the good people and the good things in life and you’ve got to continue to give love. To be a poor guy coming from a small country and to play with guys like Arnold and Jack and have them as your friend visiting my ranch visiting their homes flying with them in their jets you know having debates. I’ve got a stack of autographs here that I’ve got to sign every day and when I get an aura up I sign it and I also send a little message, “love you man take care.” It’s just fantastic how blessed you can be.

S/H: You’ve designed golf courses all over the world. Do you ever think about all the rounds that have been played on your courses, all the business deals, all the friendships, all the jokes. Do you ever think about the experience of those that play your courses all over the world?

GP: Absolutely. Being a farmer, I have great sensitivity for water, the soil, the trees. I see golf courses now are cutting all their trees down. I just stutter when I hear that because all the best golf courses in the world are tree-lined and you cannot cut the trees down. Something that people a hundred years ago planted with great enthusiasm, a committee comes along and cut it down. Some city slicker who lives in the park in New York who has no idea about nature. 

Golf has been an incredible sport, unlike every other sport basically. Here at 85, I’ve broken my age 3,000 times and I can still play very well. I can still shoot par at 85 years of age. Golf is this amazing sport. If I play a tennis match with Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, they can give me a 40-Love start, I’ll never win a point in a year unless they fall down. Now golf, I can play with Adam and Mike or two big hackers and they can beat me. If I give them enough strokes, they can beat me and that’s the great thing, you can play forever. My income today is better than it was when I was world champion. Now you tell me another sport that could happen. 

S/H: Mr. Player, the latest potential decisions around equipment and the golf ball have sparked a lot of debate in the golf world. How do you feel about that? 

GP: I think that technology is essential for the average man playing golf but for professional golf they’ve got to cut the ball back 50 yards because the golf courses are going to be obsolete. When people invented golf and the way it’s progressed, nobody ever thought, I mean even when I started, there were no people doing weight training. I was the only one and a man called Frank Stranahan. Even Arnold and Jack criticized the living daylights out of me, “you cannot do weight training and play golf,” Now you’ve got guys trading like Brooks Koepka with 250 pound bench press. I’m 85, I’m in the gym, I’m running flat out, I’m doing deadlifts and all kinds of things at 85 and now we haven’t seen anything. We haven’t seen a big man coming to golf yet. 

Now these football players are going to wake up and say, “what the hell am I doing playing football for? I’ll never be able to walk. I can play golf and I can play until I’m 50 and go on a senior tour. I can actually have an income coming in for 60 years of age and I’m going to have a sport forever.” These guys are coming to golf, they’re going to hit the ball 480-500 yards. That’s how they’re going to hit it. It’s a joke what’s going to happen to golf courses. We never visualize this kind of thing happening so you’ve got to make adjustments and bring the ball back.

Listen to the full interview to hear more personal stories from Mr. Gary Player’s unique career and friendships as well as which burger toppings are Stick or Hack according to the man himself. 

Key Takeaway: Having a positive attitude and treating people with love and respect will get you further than you could ever imagine. 

Check out our first episode of the Show After the Show, where we recap and discuss Mr. Gary Player’s episode:

Layne Gustafson

Layne Gustafson is a self-described golf fanatic from Green Bay, Wis. He’s been working in the golf industry since 2014, including at Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. He hovers between a single- and double-digit handicap is always working on improving.