77-year-old South African native Gary Player is undoubtedly a bit old school. A few months ago, he made “controversial” comments on Rory McIlroy’s slumping season, saying he needed to find “the right wife” — unlike tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, Rory’s current girlfriend of two-plus years.
Well, Player, a nine-time major champ, spoke out again in an interview with ESPN’s Sportscenter and didn’t back off from his earlier remarks:
“If you’re a young man like Rory, you can’t play with worries,” Player said. “You can’t have managerial problems, you can’t have women problems. You’ve got to be out there and have a free mind. And that’s why Arnold [Palmer], Jack [Nicklaus] and I won something like 55 majors between us. Because we had three wives that were very, very special.
“I can tell you, many of the pros that have done well divorced several times and they never quite reached the heights they could have if they had the wives that we had. So I’ve experienced this and seen this. Now I think he’s on the road to success.
“He’s got to find himself a wife that’ll help him, actually almost dedicate her life to him being a success. And that’s hard to find today, because women are extremely independent today. It’s a very different time than when we were around.”
I should be in total outrage over Player’s comments and start screaming things like “sexist pig!” and “WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN EVEN THOUGH MY PARENTS THINK I’M GOING TO BE AN OLD MAID?”
Thing is, I’m not overly offended –because in the world of professional golf, Player’s comments are kind of true, so don’t look at me to launch an all-out verbal assault and protest Player’s perhaps outdated opinions.
I am more irritated that he’s *seemingly* perturbed at the fact women are “extremely independent” today. Again, another antiquated truth in 2013 compared to 50-plus years ago when Player was McIlroy’s age.
“When you’re in love as a young man naturally golf seems to take second place for a while. It’s natural. Love is still the greatest thing that ever happens in our lives. But the thing is for a man like Rory with talent galore he’s got to make sure he has a woman like I’ve got, who has been married [to me] for 56 years, that has only encouraged me to do well and made sacrifices. He’s got to be intelligent and find the right wife. If he finds the right wife, if he practices and if he’s dedicated, he could be the man.”
You see, I get what Player means and he’s not trying to be offensive (c’mon, put the fact that he’s 77 and South African into context) — that’s just what it was like when he growing up and coming through the pro ranks.
And it really hasn’t changed much from the 1950s to the 2010s. I’m trying to think of the WAGs (wives and girlfriends) of Tour players who
still work, and only three immediately come to mind: Jeff Sluman’s wife Linda is a doctor — and not only is she a doctor, she’s an oncologist — and Adam Scott’s girlfriend Maria Kojzar is an architect, and of course, Tiger Woods’ girlfriend is an Olympic skier.
Other Tour wives are involved in various other activities, including plenty of charity work, but their main gig is usually helping manage their husbands’ careers and taking care of everything from their travel plans to the three kids under the age of 6. Which I understand — if I could tell you the times I wish I had an assistant helping me out with errands and booking my accommodations…Life on Tour, aka the traveling circus, isn’t as glam as it may appear.
Take it away, Jay-Z!
I think I’ve told this story in the past, but for obvious purposes I’m not naming the individuals involved.
I have a friend who dated a Tour player who’s ranked top 50 in the OWGR. She wanted her own career, even if it were just project-based and took up only one week per month. He had already convinced her to quit her job to go on Tour with him (again, I get it, it’s lonely out there), and she made that compromise, but then another hiccup came up that required her to be away temporarily for a few months. He wouldn’t compromise, so their relationship came to an end.
You see, she wasn’t ready to sacrifice her hopes and dreams 100% to support his hopes and dreams and there wasn’t enough commonality for a mutual compromise. Neither party was to blame. It just wasn’t meant to be. Both individuals are now married (not to each other) and I can attest that their break-up was in the best interest of their long-term happiness.
Many Tour wives past and current have been willing to give up their individual aspirations and adapted to those required of them and to support their husbands. WSJ’s John Paul Newport actually penned a column about the “Sweet, Hectic Life of a Golf Tour Wife” — and I highly recommend reading the entire story, but here’s a glimpse:
Among the few generalizations I can make about Tour wives, based on conversations with about a dozen, is that most make a point of walking the course for some of their husbands’ rounds each week.
“It’s mild exercise,” said Diane Donald. “And it makes Luke feel better.”
Back in their younger days—Diane now is 30 and Luke is 35—the two used to flirt more on the course. Now not so much. “We’re old and jaded,” she joked. But Luke knows she’s there and occasionally, even though she isn’t much of a golfer, she notices something. Once she was able to point out that Luke’s putting routine had become too quick.
“Nothing I do on the course really makes much difference,” she said. “But it’s good to know what he’s going through. If Luke plays bad and comes home upset, the last thing he needs is for me to be upset, too. What he needs to come home to, or to the hotel to, is a calm family atmosphere.” Diane and the couple’s two daughters accompany Luke to 15 or so events a year.
Back to Player’s comments re: Rory and his love life. Well, first of all, I don’t support Mr. Player’s remarks, nor do I think Mr. Player should be commenting on Rory’s personal life, per se. It’s a different time, a different generation and Rory didn’t ask for his advice, but he’s entitled to his opinion (particularly being a legend and I do believe Player is trying to be helpful in a constructive manner even if it doesn’t necessarily come across that way).
Much of Player’s comments ring true for probably the majority of Rory’s competitors. It just depends on the individual, and in golf, there are normally certain things significant others absolutely must forgo in order to have a successful marriage.
I’m also not saying Player’s comments about McIlroy’s love life aren’t perhaps at least partly correct. Wozniacki is a successful professional athlete who has people constantly indulging her. She is “there” for Rory, but she’s not going to always put his career ahead of hers — nor should she.