An interview with golf superstar Gary Player

Posted on 15 March 2011

An interview with Gary Player, one of South Africa’s favourite sporting sons …

By Antoinette Maake

Gary PlayerGary Player needs little introduction….. internationally acclaimed golfer and sports celebrity, he has kindly allowed Vegan SA to interview him. Even with his busy schedule he was gracious enough to offer us his point of view. Special thanks to Guy de Silva, his Business Development & Media Director, for making this interview possible.

Vegan SA: At what point and why did you decide to look at a plant based diet?

Gary Player: Greens, fruits and vegetables have always been a huge part of my diet, but it was probably about 15-20 years ago that I started to become more aware of the health benefits of “more green and less red.” Over that time I have begun transitioning towards a vegetarian diet (about 90% of my current diet is vegetarian based) and my goal is to adopt a vegan diet in the coming years.

Vegan SA: I hear that the China Study was somewhat influential in you making the transition to a plant based diet, please elaborate?

Gary Player: Dr. Colin Campbell’s book is fantastic and yes it has played a part in my dietary intake. He really opened my eyes about the dangers of eating too many animal proteins and how the body benefits more from plant based foods. I think that everyone should read his book; it will change how people eat and structure their diet. Imagine if we could get parents and children to read this book together! It could make a significant impact on childhood obesity and educate parents about how to properly feed their children.

There are 2 quotes that really resonate with me and have helped drive my commitment to fighting childhood obesity; “More people die today from too much food than from too little” and “The human race has never been more unhealthy as it is today”. This says something to me!

Vegan SA: Do you think that if everybody on the planet became a vegan, would this be an incredible point of development for human beings or do you think it’s necessary for some societies or ethnic groups to incorporate animal products in their diet?

Gary Player: I would like to see more people adopt a vegan diet, but I do not think that it is possible for the entire world to do so. The mass breeding of animals for human consumption is detrimental to our planet. Animal waste has a direct impact on the world’s clean water supply, the hormones that are pumped into chickens, pigs and livestock are causing children’s bodies to develop more quickly, and the land necessary to raise the animals is taking away our green spaces. These are issues that would be positively affected if more people would adopt a vegan diet, but I just don’t see that happening on a large scale.

There are many people who enjoy animal based foods and who have no interest in changing the way they eat. And as you correctly pointed out, animal products are an integral part of some ethnic groups and societies and it would be nearly impossible for them to change thousands of years of traditional eating habits.

Vegan SA: The food that your ancestors ate compared to what we eat today, do you think that they were healthier?

Gary Player: I do, and it is not necessarily because we and they ate different foods; it is because our ancestors grew food organically. The integration of chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and hormones has been necessary to deal with the explosion in the world’s population over the past century, but it has significantly affected the quality of the foods we eat. Most people think that a raw chicken is yellow, but it is in fact gray in colour. The yellowness comes from antibiotics! I think that if people would be willing to grow some of their own food or eat locally grown organic foods on a regular basis we could significantly decrease the amount of harmful chemicals we pump into our soil every day.

Vegan SA: At what stage do you think that you will comfortably be able to fully embrace a vegan diet, as we understand that at the moment your diet is 90% plant based and the rest is non-plant based?

Gary Player: My goal is to become a vegan within the next few years. I rarely eat red meat and only occasionally eat fish. Plant based foods are my main source of nutrition along with nuts, fruits, brown breads and grains.

Vegan SA: Is your food prepared for you or do you prepare it yourself?

Gary Player lends a helping hand on his farm in South AfricaGary Player: I travel extensively so a good majority of my meals are prepared by others, but when I am at home on my ranch in the Great Karoo of South Africa, we have several chefs who work full time and are wonderful. When travelling, I make a point of eating a proper diet no matter where I am in the world. It is getting much easier to eat a vegetarian or vegan based diet.

Vegan SA: Are you fussy about using whole/organic foods and do you grow any of the food that you eat on your farms?

Gary Player: Yes. I try to eat organic foods whenever possible and we grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables on our farm. Organic foods, especially right out of the ground, or off of the tree are so delicious.

Vegan SA: What is your favourite restaurant?

Gary Player: Leafy Greens Cafe, my grand daughter Antonia De Luca’s vegetarian restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Vegan SA: What is your favourite meal? … And do you have a favourite recipe that we could publish on our site?

Gary Player: A baked potato, some brown rice, a sliced tomato and a sliced avocado. Simple, healthy and delicious.

My favourite recipe is for the drink I have each morning (it is hard to get when I am travelling, but at home I drink this every day).

2 spinach leaves
1 kale leaf
Juice of half lemon
Small piece ginger
1 apple
1/2 cucumber
1 piece celery
Combine ingredients in a juicer

When you get up in the morning, drink immediately.

Vegan SA: What is your favourite place to shop for food?

Gary Player: My farm in the Karoo, although I don’t have to shop there. The most amazing grocery I have ever been to was a whole foods market in California, USA. I was shocked at the amount of organic produce available and the freshness of the products. I had never seen a grocery that was almost totally devoted to organic based foods before and it also contained a large number of vegan products.

Vegan SA: How supportive is your family to your way of eating?

Gary Player: Some of them think I am a bit of a nutter, but they all understand and support my dietary decisions.

Vegan SA: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to make a shift to becoming a vegan?

Gary Player: First, educate yourself about what a vegan diet entails and why it is beneficial to your health. You need to understand and embrace the philosophy or you will not be able to make such a drastic dietary change. Secondly, make the change over time. Don’t try and “go cold turkey”; you will shock your system and you will develop cravings that you may not be able to fight off. If you take your time and let your body adjust you will be eating a completely different diet before you realize it.

Vegan SA: Have you inspired any of your friends to adopt a plant-based diet? If so could you name a few?

Gary Player: I have probably had the most effect on my children and grand children. Many of them have adopted my dietary philosophies and I am happy to see that they are eating a healthy diet and teaching their children to do so. I do preach exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and staying away from sugary and fatty foods, but in the end it is up to the individual about what he or she chooses to eat.

Read more about Gary Player on his website www.garyplayer.comOpens in a new window.

Visit our website for a list of famous vegans, both international and South African.


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