Marc Player, son of nine-time major champion Gary, has claimed his brother has been banned from The Masters for using the occasion of last week’s honorary starter’s ceremony for “ambush marketing”.
Wayne Player, who was caddying for his father at the ceremony, was widely criticised for displaying a box of OnCore golf balls in the background of the shot as television cameras focused on Lee Elder.
Elder, 86, was the first black golfer to play in The Masters in 1975 and was invited to join regular starters Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus this year, a significant statement in the wake of heightened racial tensions in the United States over the last 12 months.
Social media users were quick to condemn Wayne Player’s actions, including his own brother Marc who tweeted: “Embarrassing & illegal ambush marketing by Wayne Player during a traditional ceremony @TheMasters # tonedeaf”.
After Hideki Matsuyama’s popular victory on Sunday evening, CBS golf writer Kyle Porter posted a picture of Matsuyama’s caddie Shota Hayafuji bowing on the final green alongside one of Wayne Player holding the packet of OnCore golf balls along with the caption: “Can’t think of a tournament in recent history that’s had a more contrasting beginning and end.”
Marc Player responded: “Agreed. Wayne has since correctly been banned from Augusta National and The Masters tournament. 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.”
When asked by Telegraph Sport if Wayne Player had been banned from the club and the tournament, Augusta National declined to comment.
Wayne Player had offered an apology to Golf Digest after the initial criticism of his behaviour. “The only thought from that point was that it would be cool for fans to know what ball my dad was teeing off with,” he said. “That’s where it ends. If I’ve hurt people’s feelings, then I’m truly sorry and hope they will forgive me.”
It is not the first time Wayne Player, 58, has courted controversy. He was arrested for fraud in 2019 over an incident involving a house rental at the 2018 Masters. The cheque he wrote to the homeowners bounced and he failed to follow through with a payment. He spent what he described as “five nights of hell” in a Georgia jail.
He was charged with one count of deposit account fraud or bad cheques totalling greater than $499 but, in a 2019 interview with The Golf Channel, he claimed the charge was dropped after the homeowners were paid in full.
It is unclear whether Gary Player knew about or condoned what his son did during the starter’s ceremony. The three-time Masters champion has been an ambassador and shareholder in OnCore since April 2019, according to the company’s website. Gary Player’s representatives did not respond when contacted for comment by Telegraph Sport.
In response to the controversy, OnCore’s chief executive released a statement last week distancing the company from the controversy. “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,” Keith Blakely wrote.
“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.”