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19th November 2023

Gary Player and friends keep Blair Atholl school’s dream alive

The Gary & Vivienne Player Invitational celebrated another memorable weekend in which business leaders, sports stars, celebrities and Sunshine Tour professionals rallied in support of a dream to keep changing lives as they raised R3 million for the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School.

Gary Player was overwhelmed by the response to helping ensure the sustainability of the school he and his late wife, Vivienne, started in 1990 and which the Gary & Vivienne Player Foundation and its partners continue to support through this tournament at the Lost City Golf Course.

“I have been blessed to have experienced great success in my career and life, and for that I am truly grateful. I am overwhelmed by the show of support from all the wonderful people this weekend who gave up their time to be with us and to help me keep a promise to my late wife Vivienne that we will ensure the future of the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School we both started all those years ago. Thank you in particular to our partners Rolex, Sun International, BMW, Amrod and new partners Citadel and Tabono as well as the Sunshine Tour professionals for all their support,” said Player.

The 36-hole pro-am tournament was won by the team of Sunshine Tour professional Robin Williams, business leaders Neil and Pam Senior, and chef and restaurateur Reuben Riffel on 188 points.

But more important than the trophy is the fact that this event once again brought together what has over the years become a close family of people who know the value of opportunity and what it can mean in a child’s life.

“It’s incredible to be part of this cause and the legacy of Mr and Mrs Player that started 30 years ago. It’s a privilege to take this forward into the future and change people’s lives and change our country for the better. The school caters for children between the ages of three and six years old and it’s such an honour and privilege to make a difference in their lives, and it’s our responsibility as South Africans to do so,” said Reon Barnard, a trustee of the Gary & Vivienne Player Foundation and a director of the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School.

It’s a message that was echoed by many of the participants at this year’s tournament.

“Whenever we are blessed with good fortune in life, you need to pay it forward. Enjoying life and the successes in life is made even better if you can share that and open doors for others as well. That was the overriding feeling from this weekend,” said Riffel.

Zack Rasego, one of the most respected caddies in the global professional game, also attended the event this weekend and shared his story of how opportunity changed his life.

“I was 16 and growing up poor in the nearby village of Ledig when we were recruited in the late 1970s by Mr Player for the first caddie training programme at Sun City. I am where I am because of that opportunity. Mr Player saw something in me and it was a life-changing opportunity that I was given,” said Rasego, who went on to caddie for Gary Player in his victory in the 1988 Senior Open as well as Louis Oosthuizen when he won the 2010 Open and a host of other top professionals.

And South African rugby icon Naas Botha also expressed perfectly the spirit of this tournament to use golf to change lives.

“Gary Player has played a part in all South African sportsman asking the question, ‘How am I going to contribute through my sport?’. Being able to do that means far more than any record you’ve held, and it’s how I approached my own career in rugby.”

Photo: The winning team in the 2023 Gary & Vivienne Player Invitational (from left to right) of Robin Williams, Pam Senior, Gary Player, Neil Senior and Reuben Riffel.