Timed to the 54th anniversary of winning his first major tournament at Muirfield in East Lothian, Scotland, legendary golfer Gary Player shares his thoughts with Front Row about The Open Championship, posing for ESPN The Magazine’s recent “Body Issue,” and how he remains committed to a rigorous fitness routine at the age of 77 years old:
How have people reacted to seeing you in the “Body Issue” and the ESPN video feature [see above]?
Overwhelmingly positive. I am delighted by how the public has responded. I did the photo shoot because I wanted to spread the message of lifelong fitness, and I think that is what most people have taken from the photos.
Certainly, when you do something like this at my age , you expect some people to question why. However, we expected more negativity. My 10-year-old grandson, Damian, was so impressed that he even told his dad that he needed to start doing more sit-ups himself.
I think the video [The Magazine] did was excellent. I hope that many have been able to watch it because it really shows my commitment to fitness, even when it was considered taboo in professional golf. If nothing else, it will show you can still be fit and exercise regularly into your 70s (and beyond).
What did you enjoy most about working with ESPN The Magazine?
The team was a delight. We worked together for a number of months leading up to the photo shoot and they made sure everything was just right on the day of the shoot. I was relaxed and comfortable all day with great music and a vast selection of healthy foods.
They did a wonderful job with the entire “Body Issue.” It was a pleasure to be featured alongside many of today’s sport stars.
What’s your favorite pose in the “Body Issue” portfolio? What were your favorite photos in the rest of the issue?
I loved the pose with the giant black golf ball. It was my son Marc’s idea and I think it turned out wonderfully. Peter Hapak was an outstanding photographer. He captured creative and artistic photos that were very tastefully done. I could not be happier.
All the photos in the issue were wonderful. I do not think that I could choose a favorite. I was very happy to see my friend [Ladies European Tour player] Carly Booth, who also represented golf in the issue.
What is your favorite hole at Muirfield?
The seventh hole — a par three – at Muirfield is one of my favorites. If the wind plays against you, it is a hole that you give everything you’ve got and pray to get out of there with a par. The green is protected by four deep pot bunkers, with run-off areas from the green leading you right to them. It is a difficult par three that will be exciting to watch during The Open Championship.
What sports figure would you challenge to pose in the “Body Issue” and why?
I am not sure that I would “challenge” anyone to pose – it was certainly something I never imagined that I would do. Most certainly my friends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Lee Trevino would not accept the challenge in any event.
It would be wonderful to see some of the top young golfers who have really embraced fitness, like Dustin Johnson or Michelle Wie. Camilo Villegas was previously featured and his images were incredible. It would also be interesting to see someone like Rafael Nadal, Usain Bolt, or Ana Ivanovic.