One of the greatest golfers in the history of the game, Gary Player is a legend across the world–but especially in his native South Africa.

In South Africa, Player is and always will be a legend. The Colesberg native can count millions of fans worldwide, including one man who never played but was always fond of the athletes: Nelson Mandela.  

I remember growing up a fan of Gary Player as I developed a love for the game myself. As my love grew, my fondness for The Black Knight went with it. Along with his brother Ian, the Player family positively impacted South Africa in both sports and the environment. At age 80, you might think that Gary would slow down, but he remains spry and in the news through his endeavors that extend across horse breeding and educating the world’s underserved.

When it comes to stature, Gary Player is one of the world’s most acclaimed athletes in any sport. Turning pro in 1953, he went on the win 9 major championships–completing the career grand slam at age 29. In 2012, Player was awarded the tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award in addition to being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He continues to be a source of inspiration cited by veterans and newcomers to the sport. The crop of established professionals and emerging youngsters can certainly credit Gary Player for bringing the sport to its level of notoriety in the country.

Player’s legacy will continue beyond the record book for years to come. Through the work he and his design team put forth, they have established over 300 golf courses across 35 countries and five continents. The Player signature touch can be felt from Guangzhou, China to Libreville, Gabon to Hilton Head, South Carolina in the U.S.

When it comes to sporting legends of South Africa, Gary Player is one that will be hard to top anytime soon.