Had it not been for Killarney Country Club the world may not have had the privilege of getting to know a certain Gary Player.
It was a generous contribution by the club’s members the helped raise the £120 needed by Player to head over to the United States. It was the catalyst to a phenomenal golfing career, one that included 165 tournament wins, a career Grand Slam, nine Major victories on the regular tour and as many on the Senior Tour.
Player was a special guest at the club’s annual captain’s dinner held this week and shared a number of fond memories of the place where he honed his skills.
It was also a chance to hear his views on the current crop of young players making a serious assault on the world rankings and the obstacle that another of South Africa’s favourite golfing sons, Ernie Els, is attempting to get over.
“Rankings can change very quickly and they also don’t lie,” Player said, touching on Els’ slide to 205th on the official world rankings.
“Ernie has been through a bad patch. Once you start missing cuts you start to think that you might be done. Ernie had the yips, according to him and a few others, I didn’t see it and now I see he’s changed his putting stroke which could very well work for him,” Player said.
The improvement showed yesterday after Els shot a second round 67 to move to nine-under-par at the Dubai Desert Classic and is now firmly in contention heading into the weekend.
In 2015 Els missed eight cuts in the 18 PGA Tour events he played in and has missed the cut twice, at the SA Open and Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, on the European Tour this year. His last European Tour win came in 2013 and he last tasted success on the PGA Tour in 2012.
While Els tries to fix his putting stroke, the world’s best golfer at the moment Jordan Spieth is using his skill with the flat stick to dominate.
“The man who is the best putter is the man who always wins. This guy is like a magnet with the putter,” Player said of the 22-year-old American before touching on the rest of the top four of Jason Day,the oldest of the quartet at 28, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
“The wonderful thing is that they’re all great young guys and they’ll raise the bar,” he said.