Player fights back tears remembering Madiba

GERALD IMRAY
Last updated 03:49 07/12/2013
Gary Player
Getty Images
GARY PLAYER: "I knelt down and I kissed his feet and I said, 'I have never kissed anybody's feet in my life,' and I said, 'I have so much admiration for you.' I said to him, 'It is remarkable, how can you not have revenge?"'

Relevant offers

Golf

‘Scary talent’ Lydia Ko continues to collect praise from international golf media American golfer Steve Stricker has surgery on his lower back Lydia Ko decision to play New Zealand Open up to golfer Adam Scott finds new caddie to replace Steve Williams Lydia Ko 'can't wait' to play 2015 New Zealand Women's Open 2014 review: Lydia Ko's stock continues to rise in golf world Lydia Ko climbs to No 2 in women's world golf rankings Woodcock: Good for fans as Lydia Ko makes right choice Lydia Ko to star at Royal Melbourne Australian Open 103-year-old sets record for oldest golfer to make a hole-in-one

The first time he met Nelson Mandela, Gary Player got on his knees and kissed the former political prisoner's feet.

Remembering his "very tearful" first encounter with Mandela, the nine-time major winner paused to compose himself and hold back more tears.

Mandela, the beloved former South African president and Nobel laureate, died Thursday at 95.

Renowned as a fierce competitor on the golf course, Player was invited to meet Mandela at his office in Johannesburg after the anti-apartheid leader's release after 27 years in prison.

But he didn't expect to do what he did, Player said.

"I knelt down and I kissed his feet and I said, 'I have never kissed anybody's feet in my life,' and I said, 'I have so much admiration for you.' I said to him, 'It is remarkable, how can you not have revenge?"'

Mandela's reply, according to Player, was: "You have got to start a new life and forgive and go ahead."

Player, speaking at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, said Mandela's ability to inspire with compassion left him amazed then - and still does.

"It was very tearful for me, because when you think of a man that has gone to jail for all those years for doing the right thing, not the wrong thing, it is hard to comprehend that a man can come out and be like that," Player said. "He was an exceptional man."

From that first meeting, Player and Mandela would cross paths regularly as the golfer, one of South Africa's greatest sportsmen, worked with the president on charity projects.

Once, Player remembered with a big smile, Mandela landed at a charity tournament in a helicopter to lend support.

"I had to meet him when the helicopter arrived and open the door. Now I had been around him all these years raising money for young black children and I opened the door, and he says 'Good morning Gary, do you remember me?"' Player recalled, imitating Mandela's unique rasping voice. "Just wonderful."

Although Player wasn't sure if he ever saw Mandela swing a golf club, he knew that the anti-apartheid leader "realised the value of sport" and even followed Player's career overseas while he was imprisoned by South Africa's former racist regime.

"He said to me, 'When I was in jail, I used to watch you playing.' He was very complimentary," Player said.

Ad Feedback

- AP

Special offers
Opinion poll

If she is able to, when do you expect Lydia Ko to win her first major?

Next year, she's so close

She's still working towards it, within three years

It may be longer than we think, within five years

The expectation might be too much, maybe never

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content