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The emotional opening moments of the Masters were not without controversy.
Lee Elder, the first black man to ever compete in a Masters, was one of the ceremonial starters at Augusta on Thursday alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. But it is one of Players’s sons who caused an uproar by seemingly promoting his dad’s golf ball while Elder was being honored.
Wayne Player, serving as Gary’s caddie, can be seen sliding a golf ball sleeve into the background while Elder was being praised by Augusta chairman Fred Ridley. Marc held the sleeve up throughout most of the cherished tradition.
“The only thought from that point was that it would be cool for fans to know what ball my dad was teeing off with,” Wayne told Golf Digest.
“That’s where it ends. If I’ve hurt people’s feelings then I’m truly sorry and hope they will forgive me.”
The drama did not end there, however. Marc Player, who is reportedly estranged from Wayne, claims that his brother is now banned from Augusta.
“Wayne has since correctly been banned from Augusta National and The Masters tournament,” Marc tweeted in response to CBS Sports’ Kyle Porter.
“What a shame. What an embarrassment. What a bad decision to allow him on the first tee after years of similar shenanigans. My apologies to all.”
Gary Player got $5 million and the rights to his name and likeness back from a company operated by by Marc in a Florida lawsuit last year that was settled. The details are murky, though Player’s attorney, Stuart Singer, called the issue a “contractual dispute.”
Wayne Player, meanwhile, spent five nights in jail in 2019 in Georgia after being arrested on fraud charges. Player had allegedly tried to rent a house in 2018 near Augusta, and the $2,000 check that he used had bounced.
OnCore, the ball that Wayne was promoting, disavowed his actions in a statement to Golf Digest.
“We are aware of the criticisms that have been raised as a result of our product being displayed by Wayne Player at this morning’s ceremonial tee shot at the Masters, most specifically during the introduction of Lee Elder, one of golf’s trailblazers,” OnCore CEO Keith Blakely said.
“We did not ask or instruct Mr. Player to have our ball sleeve visible during the ceremony and are sorry if his actions caused any offense or was a distraction from the wonderful recognition being paid to Mr. Elder.”
Gary Player, now 85, won the Masters three times and has six children overall.
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