Tis the season of giving but in the extended Player family, a year of taking continues

Bernie McGuire

Gary Player with his four major trophies - photo by PGA Tour

Tis the season for giving though as we are learning more and more, it’s been many years of taking when it comes to Gary Player’s extended family.

We know the nine-time major-winning Player is suing his son and grandson over the illegal sale of Player’s memorabilia, including trophies and clubs, that the now 87-year-old Player says the duo have sold or tried to sell despite an agreement requiring the items be returned to the champion South African.

Player first began legal proceedings in May through a West Palm Beach County court against his son Marc Player, followed by a second lawsuit he launched last month against Marc’s son, Damian Player.


According to the local West Palm Beach Coast newspaper, the lawsuits were “reluctantly” filed after a years-long dispute between Player and son Marc Player, one of six children, after he ended a business relationship with his son in 2019, said Gary Player’s attorney Stuart Singer.

Damian Player was named in a separate suit because it’s alleged that he solicited buyers for memorabilia held in 19 lockers at a South Carolina storage facility, and allegedly sold or helped sell multiple Rolex watches to someone in Florida “for significant sums of money.”

Among the items that went under the hammer in 2021 auctions against Gary Player’s wishes were his 1974 Masters Tournament Trophy for $523,483, his South African Open Trophy for $48,841, his 1965 US Open irons for $17,947 and his 52nd Masters’ golf shoes for $1,171, according to court filings.

These four items alone fetched close to $600,000.

“Only with the greatest reluctance and after many years of trying to avoid this did Gary have to enforce his rights in this way,” Singer said.

The newspaper continues by saying the lawsuit also claims Marc Player failed to transfer social media accounts and the web domain name GaryPlayer.com to his father.

Attorney Darren Heitner, whose law firm representing Marc Player but has since been dropped, said the lawsuit is in its “infancy” but in a response filed in court he claimed the settlement agreement reached in 2021 is invalid because the property rights are owned by a trust.

Marc Player worked with his father for nearly two decades as a manager. Over the years, Gary Player assigned the rights to some trademarks, likenesses, logos and images to entities headed by his son. But in 2019, Gary Player said he was revoking the rights after a claim was made that he was owed $5 million by Marc Player, according to Singer.

In August, a statement was posted on Gary Player’s Twitter account saying trophies and other memorabilia were put up for auction by Marc without his permission.

“These items belong to me and I have taken action to recover them,” Player said in his Tweet.

This bad blood between his son and grandson is not the first time we’ve learnt about issues with Gary Player’s memorabilia as the West Palm Beach Post cited a 2003 article when Player went public to say he was going to sell memorabilia through Christie’s, a decision that stunned golf fans and some of his closest friends and family members.

People speculated about the reason for the sale but Player said he was doing it to raise money for his Blair Atholl School for 450 underprivileged children on his South African estate, to set up a trust fund for his family and to avoid any fighting among his children over the items after his death.

“I don’t want to see this divided among my children,” Player said in the 2003 article. “I would turn in my grave and die and this one wanted the U.S. Open and this one wanted the British Open. I’ve seen a lot of people in my career that when they died, it was a tragedy the way the family bickered about whatever was left to them.”

In August, an auction site was listing for sale a 1959 Gary Player Black Knight Putter, the 1968 Carreras Piccadilly Match Play Golf trophy, Gary Player golf clubs used to win the 1965 US Open and the 1988 Belgian Classic Crystal Trophy, according to one of the lawsuits.

More recently and on December 8th earlier this month, and again reported by the West Palm Beach Post, Circuit Court Judge Gregory Keyser granted a temporary injunction against Marc Player and anyone working with him from selling Gary Player items that were in their possession at the time of the 2021 settlement agreement. It also ordered monies earned by selling previous items such as the 1974 Masters Tournament Trophy, to be put in a trust, and temporarily bars Marc Player from using his father’s image or name on social media accounts.

Of course, this is not a first issue Player has faced with his sons and grandson as we learnt earlier this year that another son in Wayne Player had been banned from ever attending another Masters after his brazen publicity stunt at the ceremonial tee-off to the 2021 Masters.

Having already been before the courts in the States, first in 2019 when Wayne Player had been arrested and charged with deposit account fraud/bad cheque stemming from renting a house for clients during the 2018 Masters, he was also involved in a civil suit related to a promotional package tied to the Masters with a man named Todd Feltz. The suit from Feltz claimed Player acted in bad faith, caused unnecessary expense and physically assaulted Feltz when he pried about the whereabouts of promised Masters badges.

Wayne Player, who terribly missed 17 of 17 PGA Tour cuts in striving to mirror his father on the golf course, stood on the first tee at the 2021 Masters in a ‘what were you thinking about’ attempt to promote a little-known golf ball.

Also, on the tee that April morning was Lee Elder who was being honoured by the green-jacketed Augusta members as being the first black golfer to compete in the Masters in 1975, and joining in the celebration of hitting the opening tee shots were Masters legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

Fans took to social media to attack Wayne Player, who was acting as his father’s caddy, but who stood purposely behind Elder during Elder’s introduction holding a sleeve of OnCore balls.

Augusta National officials wasted little time after all three had teed-off to strip Wayne Player of his 2021 Masters credential and order him from the premises.

Wayne Player spoke for a first time of the incident earlier this year in an article by Golf Digest wherein he referenced the social media backlash.

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

Player revealed he also incurred the wrath of Nicklaus.

“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.”

One wonders what Players’ children and grand-children with be giving by way of Christmas presents in a few days to the golfing legend.

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