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Wayne Player, son of nine-time Major champion Gary Player, has revealed that he received a lifetime ban from the Masters following his controversial marketing stunt at the 2021 opening ceremony.
Player Jr joined his father and fellow honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Lee Elder on the first tee for the proceedings. Elder was making his debut as honorary starter after being invited by Augusta National officials in recognition of being the first African-American competitor of the Masters. Poor health prevented him from playing a shot but his presence was felt as Fred Ridley addressed the patrons with a heartfelt speech.
The occasion however, was somewhat overshadowed when Player Jr posed alongside the honorary starters and held up a sleeve of balls in clear view of the cameras in what was perceived to be a bid to advertise the brand to the golfing world. The manufacturer of the balls expressed their displeasure at Player Jr’s action and said that they had no knowledge of, nor did they encourage or endorse, Player Jr’s attempt to bring attention to the brand.
At the time, Player Jr dismissed claims that he was advertising the product and instead insisted that he wanted people to know which golf ball his father was using. He remained coy about the events in the year that followed but the 58-year-old has since broken his silence in an interview with Golf Digest and revealed exactly how Augusta National responded to the incident.
“Well, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity - I found out that that’s not quite true,” he said. “I don’t mind letting people know. To be completely transparent I think it is a cool story because you know, the National never really came out formally and said, ‘Oh, we're, you know, not allowing Wayne Player to come back to the Masters.’ They never ever said that to the media. That's just the way they do it. They don't say much.”
Player Jr revealed that he sent a written letter of apology to Augusta National but it was met with a not-so-forgiving response. “It said thanks but no thanks." He added: “It said, you know, we appreciate you reaching out and apologizing, we accept your apology, but we are not changing our position, we are not going to allow you back. You ruined a special moment in the history of the game of golf.”
The event at the 2021 Masters opening ceremony was not the first time Player Jr had upset Augusta National officials. Two years prior, he was arrested for fraud over an incident involving a house rental at the 2018 Masters. The cheque he wrote to the homeowners bounced and despite his repeated assurances, he never followed up with payment. He spent what he described as "five nights of hell" in a nearby jail but the claims were later dropped.
At the same Masters, Player Jr was charged with battery after he failed to deliver on a package which promised tickets, meals, drinks and a meet-and-greet with his father. In an interaction with a proposed purchaser, Player was accused of headbutting him; although he described the events as a "nudge with my head, not a full-blown headbutt." The charge was reduced to disorderly conduct and he was ordered to pay a $300 fine.
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.