A golf legend was in Aiken on Saturday to enjoy a round on a local course.
Instead of spending more time at the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Gary Player visited the Palmetto Golf Club on Berrie Road.
A native of South Africa, Player is a three-time Masters winner, and on Thursday, he and another of the sport’s stars, Jack Nicklaus, officially kicked off this year’s edition of the famous tournament by hitting honorary tee shots.
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While Player was at Palmetto, word got around quickly about his presence at the private club, and members and their guests gathered to watch his foursome, which teed off around 9 a.m.
“I wasn’t even playing golf,” said Brad Crain, a member of Palmetto’s board of governors. “I was out at the club for something else, so I hung out and waited for him (Player) to come in.
“I watched him get on the 14th green,” Crain continued, “and then I kind of watched him play the rest of the holes right there around the clubhouse. Two of my friends came out and brought their sons with them.”
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Those pals included Bryan Young, whose son Knox got a brief lesson from Player.
“He (Player) was playing No. 16, which is par 3,” Crain said. “He hit his shot, and he looked over at my friend’s son (Knox) and said, ‘Go get your club. I want to see you hit a shot.’ He (Knox) went and grabbed his club. Then he (Player) watched him hit and gave him some pointers before playing the rest of the hole.”
During the round’s final three or four holes, “a large group of people” was following Player, Crain reported.
And after Player finished, his fans wanted to meet him.
“He was really nice to everybody,” Crain said. “He was shaking hands and taking pictures with people and signing autographs. He was so outgoing and so nice to everybody. Everybody had a real good time.”
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Aiken Standard Executive Editor John Boyette, who also is a member of Palmetto’s board of governors, wrote a book about Player – “Gary Player: Golf’s Global Ambassador from South Africa to Augusta” – that was published in 2012.
“They had the book in the (Palmetto) pro shop, and I bought it and had Mr. Player sign it,” Crain said. “I also took a picture with him. It was pretty neat.”
Crain recalled meeting Player previously at the Masters as a child and thinks he also got an autograph then.
“He’s just a real class act,” said Crain of Player.
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