Golf legend's son cops lifetime Masters ban over 'disgraceful' act

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Wayne Player says he has been banned from Augusta National for life after a 'shameful' Masters publicity stunt in 2021. Pic: Twitter
Wayne Player says he has been banned from Augusta National for life after a 'shameful' Masters publicity stunt in 2021. Pic: Twitter

Wayne Player, the son of Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player, has confirmed that he's been issued with a lifetime Masters ban over a 2021 stunt that sparked backlash around the world.

The younger Player was widely condemned for a questionable act during a moment to honour Lee Elder, the first black man ever to compete in the Augusta National major.

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What was supposed to be a moment all about Elder, was largely overshadowed by the actions of Wayne Player, who was seen in photos holding a branded sleeve of golf balls in what was seen as a "shameful" publicity stunt.

Speaking to Golf Digest this week, Player attempted to explain the situation after confirming that he has been barred from returning to Augusta National.

“Well, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Wayne said.

“I found out that that’s not quite true.

Serving as his father’s caddy, Wayne Player held up a sleeve of OnCore golf balls — horizontal, logo clearly visible — as Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley paid tribute to Elder.

Pictured centre, Lee Elder is honoured at the 2021 Masters major at Augusta National.
Wayne Player said he never intended to disrespect Lee Elder's wonderful Masters moment. Pic: Getty

The ceremony was a powerful one — Augusta National is actively trying to atone for its sins of the past — and when Wayne Player turned it into the equivalent of a NASCAR post-race interview, criticism flew.

“I had probably 50 texts after that, 40 of them said I'm a marketing genius, 10 were like, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’” Player told Golf Digest.

“It wasn’t premeditated, but it was a tacky thing.”

Outside the confines of Player’s phone, the backlash was far more severe. Wayne Player said even Jack Nicklaus, who was at the tee alongside Elder and the Players, asked, “What are you thinking?”

Augusta National, on the other hand, doesn’t bother asking questions before levying decrees. Wayne Player was barred from the premises for the remainder of the week, and the suspension has since become permanent.

"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.”

In the wake of last year’s controversy, OnCore sprinted away from Wayne Player. "We did not ask or instruct Mr. Player to have our ball sleeve visible during the ceremony,” CEO Keith Blakely said, “and are sorry if his actions caused any offence or was a distraction from the wonderful recognition being paid to Mr. Elder.”

Wayne Player unsuccessfully appeals Augusta ban

The crassness of the display appears to be what triggered the punishment. Augusta National doesn’t ban the presence of brands; indeed, one of the most famous moments in Masters history — Tiger Woods’ chip-in on the 16th hole in 2005 — features a Nike swoosh in full, obvious view.

But the combination of awkward product placement and serious occasion combined to bring the hammer down on Wayne Player.

He says he’s appealed without success, receiving a letter reiterating the ban. “It said thanks but no thanks,” Player revealed.

“It said, you know, we appreciate you reaching out and apologising, 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.”

Wayne Player claims the saga did not tarnish his relationship with Elder, who died at the age of 87 last year.

“I’ve got Lee’s cellphone number. I called and I said, ‘You know, Lee, I love you guys.’

"You know, everyone said I was disrespectful for a special moment in time for Elder. I said I was sorry, and I didn’t mean to take up his special time.

"He said, ‘Wayne, you know how much I love you. Right?’ It didn’t cross his mind. That’s important for people to know.”

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