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Vivienne Player, wife of Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player, died Wednesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. The couple’s 64-year marriage produced six children, 22 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Vivienne was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2020.
“Your whole life has got to be a honeymoon if you want it to be successful,” Gary recently told Golfweek contributor Averee Dovsek on her podcast, Why You Suck at Golf!, in mentioning Vivienne’s cancer battle. “Work at it. Love is the greatest word in the world.”
Gary, now 85, first proposed to Vivienne when he was 15 years old, and they married in 1957 in their native South Africa. Gary’s globe-trotting career went on to produce nine major championship titles among his 167 international victories, with 24 PGA Tour wins. Gary has spoke often about how his family sometimes traveled with children, and how Vivienne ran the family while he was away.
International team captain Gary Player talks with his wife, Viviene, as they watch foursomes matches at the 2005 Presidents Cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
“She is the best wife that any man could ever wish for,” he told Tennis World in 2020 after her diagnosis. “You know, no other woman would have stayed with me. I spent more time on airplanes than anyone in this planet. And she stayed home with the kids.”
Gary and Vivienne founded the Player Foundation and the Gary Player Invitational series tournaments, which has raised tens of millions of dollars to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged children.
“With the travel my profession and wins have afforded my wife Vivienne and I, we have seen the poverty and enormous needs around the world,” Gary said on the foundation website. “We have gained great satisfaction from giving something back to the world in moments of success.”
Vivienne played golf and once recorded two holes-in-one in one round in Johannesburg.
Tributes poured in on social media, including the following.
Astrid and I send you @garyplayer and the family our deepest condolences on the loss of Vivienne who was a truly wonderful lady. We’ll miss knowing she’s no longer there RIP
— Tony Jacklin CBE (@jacklin_tony) August 18, 2021
My thoughts and prayers are with @garyplayer and his family today. My sincere condolences for your loss 🙏
— Louis Oosthuizen (@Louis57TM) August 18, 2021
— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) August 18, 2021
Everyone at The R&A sends their deepest condolences to Gary Player and his family, following the sad news of Vivienne's passing. pic.twitter.com/lmcu17tVla
— The Open (@TheOpen) August 18, 2021
South African golf
It is with a heavy heart that we learned that one of golf's biggest patrons, Vivienne Player, lost her long & brave battle with cancer.
Our sincere condolences goes out to her husband Gary, their children and grandchildren, family and friends. pic.twitter.com/fOpkbLCL9Y
— GolfRSA (@GolfRSA) August 18, 2021