At 81, Player still desires to pass along his life lessons
Check each week for book reviews at CliffSchrock.com. This week’s book is “Gary Player’s Black Book: 60 Tips on Golf, Business, and Life from the Black Knight,” by Gary Player, with Michael Vlismas, Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99, hardback, 216 pages.
With the exception of Peter Alliss, Gary Player is the likely leader in having the most bylined golf books by a notable player.
As a highly competitive person—he even burns with desire to outdrive Jack Nicklaus when they hit the Masters ceremonial first shots—Player will enjoy that status. His latest effort, “Gary Player’s Black Book,” puts him, by my unofficial count, with 22 books (and 16 booklets/pamphlets). For comparison, some other key player-authors and their totals include:
Peter Alliss—30+ books
Jack Nicklaus—20 books, 15 booklets/pamphlets
Arnold Palmer—15 books, 16 booklets/pamphlets
Sam Snead—14 books, 9 booklets/pamphlets
Tom Watson—11 books
Bobby Jones—7 books, 17 booklets/pamphlets
Harry Vardon—6 books, 2 booklets/pamphlets
Tiger Woods—2 books
Player’s early books were mainly instructional and biographical. But with “Golf Begins at 50” in 1989, his books started having a more philosophical and reflective tone. One book focused on his “meaning to life,” and another bluntly told readers in the title: “don’t choke.”
Player is a high-energy individual, known for decades for his insistence on physical fitness. In 2016, he visited the Golf Digest office in the World Trade Center, and along with an impromptu chipping clinic, he chided all the out-of-shape staff members to get fit, even challenging some guinea pigs to compete with him in pushups.
Now 81, in addition to the fitness, Player has added a philosophical bent to his message. Because of his confident, determined delivery, Player can come across preachy. But I never found the fitness aspect overdone; just look at how many of us are overweight, and it’s safe to say we need someone in our face every day.
The “Black Book” lessons are culled from Player’s international background; he is likely the most traveled golfer ever, using his South African home as his base. He has taken his achievements in every aspect of life and passed them along as answers to 60 questions dealing with life, golf and business. Each answer usually includes a personal story to support his answer. Some anecdotes are familiar, such as Player’s long-ago exchange with Ben Hogan, when he was told to go talk with “Mr. Dunlop” about advice rather than get it from Hogan since Player used Dunlop equipment.
There’s new material (his take on golf on the Olympics is sharp and opinionated) but let’s face it, some nuggets are worth repeating. Call me gullible, but Player is such a contrast to the average tour professional today, who, by and large, shows little interest in global affairs, little or no appreciation for the history of the game, and no deep analysis of how the greatest game of all can become greater. That’s a blanket statement, but I’d prefer a golf figure who is engaged with his craft, despite the appearance to pontificate, rather than someone who only seems focused on what the game can provide for him or her. Peter Thomson, the Australian great, was another ideal model for how a professional golfer can be talented on the course and worldly and smart off it.
“Black Book” is a light, breezy read with easy-to-understand advice. Life is loaded with endless questions. Gary Player’s answers to 60 of them carry a lot of weight.