Player, a winner of more than 165 tournaments worldwide, is the only person to complete the career Grand Slam on both the regular and senior tours amidst his 18 Major Championships. And 63 years as a professional golfer has given Player extensive experience in team competition.
He captained the International Team for the Presidents Cup on three occasions, and also made several appearances for South Africa in the World Cup of Golf. Player said he was honoured to be selected as captain for South Africa on such a momentous occasion for golf.
“I am delighted to accept the captaincy and look forward to leading our top professionals on the fairways of the Rio Olympics next year. This is such a big moment for our country and for the game of golf as a whole, and I am proud to be a part of this. Golf and the Olympic movement share the same core values, so this is a very big opportunity to grow the game around the world. Our goal is to earn South Africa its first Olympic gold medal in a sport that has always done this country proud.”
Player’s Olympic captaincy was made official by the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the governing body for golf in the country.
“Gary is our greatest golfer and one of this country’s greatest ambassadors,” said Gerhard Conradie, President of the SAGA. “His career on the golf course and his philanthropic efforts off it embody everything of the Olympic spirit, and we are proud that he has accepted to lead South Africa’s first Olympic golf team to Rio.”
The announcement was made at Soweto Country Club on Saturday, where Player’s remarkable career and contribution to South African golf was recognised with a golf day in his honour by the Sunshine Tour and the City of Johannesburg. Selwyn Nathan, the Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour, applauded the decision to appoint Player as captain of the Olympic golf team.
“Our Sunshine Tour professionals have tremendous respect for Gary, and his experience and leadership ability will be invaluable to the South African players who qualify. We all saw the effect Gary has on a team when he led the International Team to the only ever tie in the Presidents Cup in South Africa in 2003, which remains one of the most memorable moments in golf.
“As golf’s undisputed global ambassador, it is very fitting that the game’s return to the Olympic fold for the first time in more than a century should feature a man recognised worldwide for his contribution to the game, and we are proud to have him lead our South African team.”
Golf has only appeared twice at the Olympic Games, in 1900 and 1904, and with only the United States, Canada and Great Britain competing.
In 2016 and 2020, golf will be globally represented at the Olympic Games for the first time.