HITTING THE LINKS — One of golf's biggest names recently played a round of golf with an apostle from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then shared his admiration for the high-ranking church leader.
Gary Player, a PGA Hall of Famer who won the Tour's lifetime achievement award in 2012, posted about the experience Friday on Instagram, where he appeared alongside Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
"I had the pleasure of playing a round of golf with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf," Player wrote. "One of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. He is a principled man that we can all learn from and it's safe to say that I am a big admirer of his.
"I have been touched and inspired by his words of faith and wisdom. In today's world, we need more people like him."
Player's wife Vivienne has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the 90s. The couple was en route to the marriage of a grandson when they stayed in Utah briefly and set up the memorable playing partnership with the church leader, the family told KSL.com.
Vivienne Player joined the church after her daughter, Amanda Leigh, was introduced to Latter-day Saints in high school, according to the Deseret News. The daughter later served an 18-month mission in New Jersey shortly after her mother was baptized in 1994.
Gary Player was never baptized into the church, but has remained supportive of his wife and family member's faith for many years. He was also close friends with the late PGA Tour icon Billy Casper, a prominent Latter-day Saint golfer for more than 30 years who died six years ago in Springville.
"He's very pro-church and very much behind me," Vivienne Player told the Deseret News of her husband.
A winner of the career grand slam as victory of each of the four major championships on the PGA Tour, Player had 24 victories on tour during his Hall of Fame career, including three Masters titles and three British Open championships. He went on to 22 victories on the Champions tour, tied for seventh all-time in tour history, and added three more wins on the European Senior Tour.
In all, Player posted 160 professional wins and rates as one of the top golfers in the history of the PGA. Gold Digest ranked him as at the eighth greatest golfer of all time in 2000, and he was named "Sportsman of the Century" in his native South Africa in 2000.
In his post-playing career, Player is represented by Black Knight International, which includes course design firms, real estate, publishing, wine, apparel and memorabilia, as well as The Player Foundation that helps provide education, nutrition, medical care and athletic activities for disadvantaged children living in the outskirts of Johannesburg, his hometown.
In April, Player appeared for the ceremonial opening tee shot at The Masters alongside Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, fellow golf legend Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Elder, one of the Black pioneers of golf and the first Africa American to play in the Masters.
The achievement was notable for Player, who grew up under apartheid policies in South Africa. Player faced protests during his career for several statements he made about the regime, but in a 1987 interview with the Los Angeles Times, he disavowed the system of apartheid, calling it a "cancerous disease."
On Jan. 7, Player received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Donald Trump.