A FAIR WAY FORWARD

Abu Dhabi 2016 | SPORTS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gary Player, golf legend, on working together with the government, promoting local golf development, and the world-class Saadiyat Golf Course.

Gary Player
BIOGRAPHY
Gary Player has won 167 professional golf tournaments and is one of five men to capture golf’s coveted career Grand Slam. He won nine Major championships on the PGA Tour and nine Major championships on the Senior Tour, becoming the only player to complete the career Grand Slam on both tours. He serves as the Global Ambassador to the World Golf Hall of Fame, and in 2016 he will captain the South African Olympic Golf Team in Rio de Janeiro. In recognition of his achievements in golf and his dedication to charity, Player has received numerous awards including the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award and the PGA Tour's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Player Foundation is promoted by the Sports Council and the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. What will be its contribution to Abu Dhabi's sports development?

The Player Foundation is active worldwide, having raised more than $62 million and now stages Gary Player Invitational charity events in China, India, Japan, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, London, and New York. It has taken off very well and having raised such an amount of money for a sporting event means every country we participate in benefits. Dealing with the Sports Council has been an absolute pleasure and proceeds from the Gary Player Invitational will go to building a gymnasium center for young people in Abu Dhabi. This development is something the Abu Dhabi authorities have been very interested in and something we are very excited about contributing to. I have been going to Abu Dhabi for many years, having designed the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and I have been involved with young people there, holding golf clinics and taking them out to the golf course so they can see, enjoy, and learn the game. Generally speaking, Abu Dhabi has been remarkable in terms of its investment in sports, be it motor racing, golf, football, tennis, and so on. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “sport has the power to change the world," and that has never been more true. On the other hand, sport is a big business, and for that reason we are delighted to come to Abu Dhabi. There is also a very important public health aspect to what we do. Abu Dhabi is facing very similar problems to the rest of the world in terms of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic and lifestyle diseases. Promoting sports here is not just about fun, it is also a crucial public health issue. The Ministry in Abu Dhabi understands the seriousness of diabetes and obesity, and one of my great ambitions is to pass on that message to young people.

What do you think the country needs to do in terms of funding, development, and infrastructure to develop more professional golfers?

Abu Dhabi is well on its way and golf is really on the rise. Al Musharraq is a wonderful golfer and a charming man. It all comes down to how much he trains and practices. The harder you work, the luckier you get. There are no shortcuts to success. The Ministry and the Sports Council has also been very supportive of him and golf in general. Beyond golf, young people have to be educated in sports while in school, as early as possible. Students, teachers, and parents all have to be educated about eating properly, avoiding sugar, eating moderately, and exercising and playing sports. This is not just for the benefit of the children themselves, it is for the benefit of the country. This is a crucial issue, to spread and promote a culture of healthiness, fitness, exercise, good dietary habits, and sports throughout the population.

What distinguishes Saadiyat Golf Course from other golf courses, and what kind of events do you organize there?

One aspect of the attraction is tourism. Abu Dhabi has so much to offer and the world needs to understand how rich an experience it can be for tourists. Saadiyat Island and our golf course is part of this. Being right next to the sea, I think Saadiyat Beach Golf Course is the best and most spectacular golf course in the country. I want to speak with the Ministry of Sports about playing the Abu Dhabi Championship on Saadiyat Golf Course instead of where it is played now, as it offers so much more of a spectacular setting that would help promote the country. The government is doing a good job overall, and I want to help in any way that I can to make Abu Dhabi's offering even better. 6The Player Foundation is promoted by the Sports Council and the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. What will be its contribution to Abu Dhabi's sports development?

The Player Foundation is active worldwide, having raised more than $62 million and now stages Gary Player Invitational charity events in China, India, Japan, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, London, and New York. It has taken off very well and having raised such an amount of money for a sporting event means every country we participate in benefits. Dealing with the Sports Council has been an absolute pleasure and proceeds from the Gary Player Invitational will go to building a gymnasium center for young people in Abu Dhabi. This development is something the Abu Dhabi authorities have been very interested in and something we are very excited about contributing to. I have been going to Abu Dhabi for many years, having designed the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and I have been involved with young people there, holding golf clinics and taking them out to the golf course so they can see, enjoy, and learn the game. Generally speaking, Abu Dhabi has been remarkable in terms of its investment in sports, be it motor racing, golf, football, tennis, and so on. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “sport has the power to change the world," and that has never been more true. On the other hand, sport is a big business, and for that reason we are delighted to come to Abu Dhabi. There is also a very important public health aspect to what we do. Abu Dhabi is facing very similar problems to the rest of the world in terms of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic and lifestyle diseases. Promoting sports here is not just about fun, it is also a crucial public health issue. The Ministry in Abu Dhabi understands the seriousness of diabetes and obesity, and one of my great ambitions is to pass on that message to young people.

What do you think the country needs to do in terms of funding, development, and infrastructure to develop more professional golfers?

Abu Dhabi is well on its way and golf is really on the rise. Al Musharraq is a wonderful golfer and a charming man. It all comes down to how much he trains and practices. The harder you work, the luckier you get. There are no shortcuts to success. The Ministry and the Sports Council has also been very supportive of him and golf in general. Beyond golf, young people have to be educated in sports while in school, as early as possible. Students, teachers, and parents all have to be educated about eating properly, avoiding sugar, eating moderately, and exercising and playing sports. This is not just for the benefit of the children themselves, it is for the benefit of the country. This is a crucial issue, to spread and promote a culture of healthiness, fitness, exercise, good dietary habits, and sports throughout the population.

What distinguishes Saadiyat Golf Course from other golf courses, and what kind of events do you organize there?

One aspect of the attraction is tourism. Abu Dhabi has so much to offer and the world needs to understand how rich an experience it can be for tourists. Saadiyat Island and our golf course is part of this. Being right next to the sea, I think Saadiyat Beach Golf Course is the best and most spectacular golf course in the country. I want to speak with the Ministry of Sports about playing the Abu Dhabi Championship on Saadiyat Golf Course instead of where it is played now, as it offers so much more of a spectacular setting that would help promote the country. The government is doing a good job overall, and I want to help in any way that I can to make Abu Dhabi's offering even better.