Gary Player has admitted that his son Wayne was in the wrong over his so-called “guerrilla marketing” stunt at The Masters – but refused to confirm if he had been barred from Augusta National as a result.
Wayne Player, 58, was spotted displaying a sleeve of golf balls in the background of the shot as television cameras focused on Lee Elder during the traditional first tee event at Augusta National on Thursday morning
Elder, 86, was the first black golfer to play in The Masters and was invited to join regular honorary starters Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus to get The Masters underway this year.
Ill health prevented the four-time PGA Tour winner from joining Player and Nicklaus hitting a shot but, as cameras trained their lenses on him, eagle-eyed viewers were distracted by Player Jnr in the background.
He was seen holding a sleeve of balls made by OnCore, a New York-based ball company that Player has been an ambassador of since 2019.
Social media users were quick to condemn Player Jnr for seizing upon what should have been a momentous occasion for Elder - Player's estranged son, and Wayne's brother, Marc amongst them.
He called the incident "embarrassing and illegal ambush marketing" and "tone-deaf", later adding that Wayne “has since correctly been banned from Augusta National and The Masters tournament.”
Neither a representative for Player nor Augusta National officials would comment on that claim.
Now, speaking to Ann Liguori of WFAN, Player Snr has broken his silence on the furore, calling Wayne’s actions not “the most intelligent thing to do”.
“I don’t think he did it with any malice,” Player said. “He was basically telling his friends, ‘My father will play this ball.’ And I think his friends didn’t believe it because it’s not a ball on the market.”
“It was wrong. And I said to Augusta, ‘Listen, a man’s got to take his punishment. If he does something wrong and you don’t want him back here again, then just bar him. That’s what you go to do.’ ”
Noting that “Augusta has done a lot of things that a lot of people don’t like, as well, throughout history”, Player added: “That’s their course. It’s their tournament. And you’ve got to abide by their rules. And if you don’t, you’re going to be asked to leave. We’ll see what their verdict is in the end. Whatever happens, so be it.”
Three-time Masters champion Player also revealed that Wayne reached out to Elder after the incident to apologise for overshadowing his moment.
“Lee Elder is a very dear friend of Wayne’s, a very dear friend,” he said. “He even phoned Lee Elder and Lee Elder said, ‘Don’t worry about it. My goodness me, I’ve always loved you and you’ve always loved me.’”