Gary Player: 'Olympic Golf Will Promote Game More Than Any Tournament'

(ATR) South African golf legend still critical of those golfers who opted out of Rio 2016.

(ATR) Kids screamed ‘Gary, please, Gary, please,’ seeking autographs from South African golf legend Gary Player.

Player blended in with young golf fans just about a pitch shot away from the 18th green at the Reserva de Marapendi Olympic course.

Player – with his youthful exuberance, energy and charisma – had an absolute blast with the kids signing autographs, asking their ages and tossing souvenir balls to the excited group.

"Look at these young guys – take a picture of this – incredible!," Player exclaimed, mingling with a group ranging in age from 11-16. "Lucas - obrigado," he said to one of the teen-agers eliciting a big laugh from onlookers.

"Can you believe an 81-year-old man being recognized by these kids," Player asked rhetorically with a huge grin on his face.

The nine-time major champion from South Africa who turned pro in 1953, was asked for his thoughts on the new Olympic course?

"The course is very good and the nice thing about it is when the tournament is finished they’re going to have a public course for young people to come and learn to play golf," Player said.

Player has continued to be the most outspoken critic of the 20 or so high profile golf pros, including three South Africans, who opted to sit out the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years.

The popular international ambassador of golf proclaimed the Olympics will do wonders to help grow the game worldwide.

"My goodness me, there’s nothing in the world that will promote golf like this – three-and-a-half billion people," Player said, referring to the Olympic TV audience. "Remember you have people like Bangladesh and little countries who are playing here – golfing countries playing here that will be watched on TV live.

"This will promote golf more than any tournament in the world – no question about it," Player said emphatically.

Player – who is nicknamed Mr. Fitness and has posed naked for the ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue in 2013, encountered some well-known Olympic tennis stars during a morning workout in a Rio gym.

"I went to the gym – I saw Andy Murray, Serena Williams and [Novak] Djokovic," Player said brimming with excitement. "I have never been in a gym - You never see anything thing like this in your life.

"And people don’t come – are you mad?," he asked, once again referring the top golfers who stayed home.

"And yet they will play in Malaysia and Africa where Malaria is 10,000 times… 50,000 times worse than Zika," Player continued his rant. "And they play there, but they don’t want to play here, it doesn’t make sense.

"Don’t worry about them - these guys here are doing great – if they were here, they wouldn’t be doing any better than these guys."

Written by Brian Pinelliat Reserva de Marapendi

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