Gary Player shares memories of Scotland and tips for healthy living

Gary Player has great memories of Scotland
Player has great memories of Scotland, where he won two of his three Open Championships

Gary Player first arrived in Scotland aged 19 in 1955. He had £200 in pocket and slept on the beach at St Andrews before taking part in his first Open Championship.

The 80-year-old is worth considerably more now and stays in the finest hotels on his regular visits to the country where his Glaswegian grandparents were born.

But the South African still recalls that first night under the stars in Fife.

"The hotels were all about £50 a night, so I put on my waterproofs and slept on the beach where they later filmed Chariots of Fire," he recalls. "I could the hear the ocean and had a wonderful night.

"I would have slept there for the rest of the week but they'd probably have put me in jail."

Player never won an Open at St Andrews but two of his three championships were won in Scotland; at Muirfield and Carnoustie.

The Open remains pinnacle

Ahead of this year's event at Royal Troon, the nine-time major winner thinks the Open is the toughest test in world golf.

"It's very exciting it's still the ultimate test," he told BBC Scotland.

"It can be normal sunshine in the morning then in the afternoon you could be playing in the wind and the rain. I always say it's a man's tournament."

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Interview - Gary Player

So who is the great man tipping for success at this year's Open?

"The best player in the world is Jason Day, he has a phenomenal swing. So does Rory McIlroy and the other player in the top three I think is Adam Scott.

"But the best putter is Jordan Spieth. He is a phenomenal putter. I continually hear about long driving in golf, but that's not the game. The most important part is your mind and how you putt.

"Putting it makes you feel like Tarzan, but if you miss a short one you feel like Jane.

"It's the man who really has that great week of putting [who will win]. It's the mind and I cant emphasise that enough."

Fitness fanatic

But Player puts just as much emphasis on the body and is still fanatical about fitness, even in his ninth decade.

"I do 1300 sit-ups and crunches four times a week, I still push 400 lbs with my legs and run on the treadmill at max," he explains.

"I still average 70 for a round of golf, that's 10 shots better than my age!"

Player acknowledges his role as a pioneer in changing the way professional golfers approach their sport.

Gary Player in action at The Open in St Andrews last year
Player milks the applause from fans at St Andrews during last year's Open

"When I first started playing the only weights golfers lifted was putting martini in your glass," he laughs.

"I can't deny I had an influence in changing that. These days they travel with a portable gymnasium, the way people like Rory McIlroy train is magnificent."

Player is an evangelist for a healthy lifestyle and is hoping Scots listen to his message.

Eat less, exercise more

"The less you eat the longer you live," he says. "Most people eat like every meal was the last supper.

"I breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and have dinner like a pauper. But let me tell you you Scots are in the top three for the worst eaters in the world. If I lived here I don't know how my heart would be.

"I would never eat bacon, sausage, white bread or milk. I fed that stuff to my dog and he died three years ago.

"But Scots would never give up their haggis, neeps and tatties.

"I say to people, drink a little less, stop smoking, eat less and buy a treadmill. I think people should under eat and over exercise. In Britain you are facing an epidemic of diabetes in future.

"I really want to get my message over to young people. They, as my ultimate hero Winston Churchill said, are the trustees of posterity. But young people today are deteriorating.

"You see them punch drunk on their computers, at dinner on their little boxes, no conversation. They come home from school and they are on it, it's important to have knowledge but you have to get out and exercise."

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