Prestigious award for Player
John Smit and Gary Player (Photo provided)
Cape Town - South African golfing legend Gary Player
was on Thursday honoured at the Virgin Active Sport Industry Awards for his achievements both on and off the golf course, receiving the Johnnie Walker Lifetime Achievement Award from Rugby World Cup winning captain John Smit
A week before the Sport Industry Awards ceremony, which brought together almost 1 200 people from across the South African sport industry, the two legends met for the first time at the prestigious Wentworth Golf Club in the UK, where Smit handed over the Johnnie Walker Lifetime Achievement Award in front of the Sport Industry Group cameras.
"Gary has been one of my heroes both as a kid and a grown man, and this is a humbling experience," said Smit.
"Gary - six decades as a golfer, the only non-American golfer to have won all four Majors, and the fact that you are South African makes us even more proud of what you have done.
“It’s my honour and privilege to hand over the Johnnie Walker Lifetime Achievement Award. From my side, and from the rest of South Africa, congratulations for all you have done for South Africa and for us South Africans around the world.”
In a glittering career, Player has won an astonishing nine Majors, in the process becoming the only non-American to have won all four Majors - the Masters, the US Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship. Those incredible achievements have contributed to a remarkable total of 165 career wins.
His achievements off the course are equally impressive. His companies include Gary Player
Design, Player Real Estate, and Black Knight Enterprises, which have secured success across sectors including apparel, events, licensing, memorabilia, publishing and in the wine trade. The Gary Player
Stud Farm has achieved a worldwide reputation through its breeding and training of thoroughbred race horses, while The Player Foundation has driven social change for almost 30 years since it was founded in 1983.
Putting that achievement firmly down to the power of sport and the value of hard work, Player told Smit: “Golf is an amazing lesson in life. As Nelson Mandela
said, sport can change the world. There are no barriers when you are playing sport - it's the most fantastic thing in the world.
Commenting on the development of the South African sport industry over his lengthy career, Player highlighted the FIFA World Cup 2010 as a landmark moment for the country.
"I think the World Cup had a great effect on our economy, giving people confidence to invest in our country," he said. "All of our sportsmen and sportswomen have been great ambassadors for our wonderful country, and so we can be very, very proud.
Player concluded: “It's a great honour to receive this award from John, and from Johnnie Walker, a wonderful sponsor of sport, and not only of tonight's great event. I want to say to all the other awards recipients tonight well done - we're proud of you."
The Sport Industry Awards ceremony, recognising the very best in commercial achievement in South African sport, was held on Thursday evening at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg.
Almost 1 200 members of the South African sporting industry gathered to celebrate the winners of Awards for their work in disciplines including PR, marketing, advertising, sponsorship, community investment, and overall commercial success.
Celebrity guests including Heyneke Meyer
, Lucas Radebe
, Oscar Pistorius
, Kerry McGregor, Mark Fish
, Doctor Khumalo
, Neil McKenzie
, Juan de Jongh, Ryan Sandes
, Elana Meyer
, Shashi Naidoo, Butch James
, Roxy Louw
Van Der Linde and many more rubbed shoulders with key figures from across the industry at the glamorous black-tie annual event, which in its second year has quickly become the number one opportunity for the biggest players in the sport market to come together, network and celebrate their achievements amongst peers.
This year, more than 130 entries to the Awards went through a rigorous two-stage judging process overseen at all times by the Official Independent Adjudicators, Deloitte, with some of the biggest and most respected names in sport involved as judges.