Their love story spans over seven decades – from the day 14-year-old Gary Player stood on the stonewall next to his parents’ home to see what the girl next door looks like, until now – six children, 22 grandchildren and 2 greatgrandchildren later.
“That day, I told my brother she is the girl I’m going to marry. He thought I was crazy!” But after 63 years of marriage and a lifetime of love, Player (84) is finally wondering if their time together is almost over.
“There is no doubt. The cancer will come get her . . . I just don’t know when,” Player said in an interview about the illness that his wife, Vivienne, has been fighting for the past few months. Vivienne (83) has pancreatic cancer and the pair just don’t know what the future holds.
Since her diagnosis Vivienne has lost about 60 pounds and is very frail. She sleeps about 14 hours a day and struggles to eat. They are unsure how long she still has . . . For years South Africa’s most successful golfer has been driven by optimism and joy for life.
He has never struggled to see the silver lining. But when speaking about his wife, he is full of sadness and despair.
One day at a time
“We are taking it a day at a time. My life was so full of love. I’m grateful for it.
If my wife goes, all that love will go with her and that would be very difficult for me. I am used to give her hugs; I tell her five times a day how much I love her. It will be difficult – I’m so used to having her next to me,” Player admitted.
When speaking about their years together, Player needs no encouragement. “She is the best wife that any man could ever wish for. You know, no other woman would have stayed with me. I spent more time on airplanes than any one in this planet.
And she stayed home with the kids. Sometimes she could join me in America, but it took 40 hours in those days, because the plane had to stop four times. And there weren’t beds on the plane, or television to keep you entertained.
But these are the type of things Vivienne accepted so that I could play golf”. And in those days, they didn’t have the big purses of today. Sometimes life was a struggle for the Player-family. Although things became more comfortable over the years, some things never changed.
“She still puts my clothes on my bed every morning, like she has done over the years. And every time I say, ‘rather rest, you don’t have to do that’, but the next morning, she does it all over again”.
Player and Vivienne are currently in Pennsylvania, with their daughter Amanda-Leigh. They went there in February this year so Player could receive the American Freedom medal from President Donald Trump. They pair had to stay there when borders worldwide were closed due to the pandemic.
“I am still very fit, very young. I can still lift 350 pounds with my legs, I still do 100 sit-ups every day, still play fantastic golf. But there comes a day when you realize everything will come to an end. Something like this reminds you life is short.
You can’t accept anything as a given. Everything comes to an end . . ”. Gary Player explained with a sigh.