Gary Player’s son, Wayne, has confirmed that he appealed unsuccessfully against a lifetime ban from Augusta National Golf Club following unsavoury scenes at the Honorary Starters ceremony in 2021.
Wayne, who was caddying for his father, Gary, for the opening drive, was spotted by viewers holding up a sleeve of OnCore golf balls as the camera panned across Player, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Elder, who was taking part in the tradition for the very first time.
Wayne was being opportunistic, knowing the eyes of the world would fall on the OnCore balls with Gary Player a long-time Ambassador for the brand. However, his guerrilla marketing stunt swiftly backfired, with even Nicklaus taking exception to the shameless product placement.
“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 US. “It wasn’t premeditated, but it was a tacky thing.”
“I understand why people took offence to it,” Player added. “Jack, the Golden Bear himself, told me, ‘What are you thinking?’ I said, ‘You know, Jack, you’re right.’ You have to be accountable when you mess up.”
Player quickly apologised to Lee Elder for stealing his moment while also writing to Augusta National Golf Club and Chairman Fred Ridley in the hope that he would have his access to the famed Georgia venue reinstated. He received a reply, but not a favourable one.
“It said thanks but no thanks,” Player says. “It said, 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.”
And with the gloves now well and truly off, Wayne Player, seemingly with nothing more to lose, took aim at the powers that be at Augusta for another apparent slight against the Player family name – this time in relation to Gary never receiving full membership at the club.
“If I’m actually honest, it hurts me and you can print this, it hurts me that Augusta National have not invited my dad to be a full member at the club,” Player said.
“I mean, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were invited to be full members. And we know there’s a lot of criteria around there, but nobody’s represented the game of golf better than Gary Player. Why they haven’t is a shame.”