Gary Edwin is a fixture on the tournament scene in Australia. Always clad in a black, long-sleeve collared shirt and slacks, the 72-year-old teaching professional is an unmistakable figure. So widespread is Edwin’s influence that he once taught 14 players on the PGA Tour of Australasia. Five of his pupils – Peter Lonard, Rod Pampling, Paul Gow, Anthony Painter and Gavin Coles – made their way onto the US PGA Tour. All told, his players have accumulated prizemoney approaching $100 million.
Edwin honed the seemingly ageless swing of Peter Senior that upstaged the youngsters to win the 2015 Australian Masters at the age of 56. Ian Baker-Finch is another long-time advocate, as well as Michael Campbell and Jan Stephenson. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and the late media tycoon Kerry Packer are just two of countless amateurs to have received lessons from the Gold Coast instructor.
Over six decades, Edwin has built his reputation around what he refers to as the Right Sided Swing. “My main influences were Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle and Ben Hogan. And they all set up the same,” Edwin says of his minimalist approach.
Literally hundreds of coaches from around the world have trained under Edwin (garyedwin.com). An often-stated criticism – which should be seen as a compliment – is that all Edwin’s students look the same. People can tell when somebody’s had a lesson from Gary Edwin, which not too many other coaches could claim.
That Gary Edwin carved out his own identity as one of the finest teachers in Australian golf is a remarkable story in itself.
Christened Gary Player, he suffered through years of frustration due to the coincidence of sharing the same name as one of golf’s all-time greats. He was a 15-year-old attending high school when the South African Gary Player won his first Major, the 1959 British Open at the age of 23.
Edwin lowered his handicap to scratch by age 16 before deciding to undertake a PGA apprenticeship in Sydney. But it became increasingly difficult to make a name while Gary Player established himself as one of the ‘Big Three’ alongside Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
“My father’s name was Jack Player. My mother’s name was Alice Player. So I was a Player. I just had to live with it. Everywhere I went, no one believed me,” recalls Edwin.
Competing in his first professional tournament at The Lakes Open, Edwin arrived in the car park and had just finished unloading his clubs when the club captain confronted him. “The car park is only for players,” he shouted. Edwin went up to the office and explained his situation. But they doubted his story as the South African was playing in the tournament. One night Edwin was pulled over by police for speeding and/or going through a red light. He told the officers his name and that he was playing in the Australian Open. (So, too, was the South African.) To prove his identity, he opened the car boot and showed them his golf bag emblazoned with Gary Player. It didn’t work. The constables escorted him to the local station under the assumption he had stolen Gary Player’s bag.
“I just got very conscious of it. I was giving lessons down at Narrabeen Driving Range back in the old days. I had just come out of my traineeship and had a sign up saying ‘Gary Player Lessons – 17 and 6 pence’. Whatever that was in those days, it wasn’t very much.
“People used to come and laugh at the sign as soon as they saw me. I used to always wear black and so did he. But he was really muscly and I was really skinny and didn’t have a muscle in my body.”
Two leading equipment manufacturers in Sydney – PGF and Slazenger – approached Edwin to produce a golf club with Gary Player Australia. But he wouldn’t do it out of respect for his namesake.
The final straw came in 1969 when three amateur playing partners started poking fun. “One day I was on the tee at a pro-am and introduced myself. And all the guys just sort of called themselves Hogan, Snead and Demaret. I just said ‘I’m sick of this’.”
So he went to the NSW registry office of Births Deaths & Marriages in Elizabeth Street and asked what he should do. The clerk suggested dropping Player and adopting his middle name as a surname. And that’s how Gary Edwin Player became Gary Edwin.
“All my kids are Edwins and my grandkids. That’s just the way it went. Even now when people hear of the story, they don’t believe it again.
“My Dad didn’t speak to me for about eight years. So it caused a bit of trauma in the family. I think I’ve killed the family tree because the Players have come to an end and there would be just these Edwins that people have to trace.”
Edwin has met Gary Player several times, the first occurring when he was a 19-year-old trainee. They’ve spent a number of hours in each other’s company during which Edwin has regaled stories about his identity crisis.
Whenever they see each other, the South African always addresses him as ‘The Other Guy’. To which Edwin always asks, “When are you going to change your name?”
It’s all rather amusing for Player who has a penchant for telling tales about Edwin being thrown out of car parks and questioned by police. “He thinks it’s hilarious,” Edwin says.