Wayne Player banned for life from Masters after ambush marketing stunt

Wayne Player says he is banned for life from the Masters after a tacky ambush marketing stunt in 2021, where he held golf balls next to a frail Lee Elder while he was being honoured in the starters ceremony – despite sending a letter of apology to Augusta

  • Wayne Player held branded golf balls up next to Lee Elder while he was sat listening to a speech paying tribute to him by Augusta chairman Fred Ridley
  • Elder, the first African-American to play in the Masters, died last year aged 87
  • Player said he reached out to Elder, who he claims was not upset by the gesture 

Wayne Player, son of the legendary Gary Player, has revealed he is banned for life from the Masters for his tacky ambush marketing stunt while a tribute was being paid to Lee Elder at the 2021 honorary starters ceremony.

Acting as a caddie, Wayne Player was on the first tee for the ceremony with his father, Jack Nicklaus and Elder – the first African-American to play in the Masters. During a speech from chairman Fred Ridley in tribute to Elder, Wayne Player, who was stood behind him, held up a packet of golf balls with its brand on show.

Elder’s poor health meant he was unable to play a tee shot, as is tradition in the ceremony, alongside Gary Player and Nicklaus. He died six months later, in November 2021.

Now, speaking to Golf Digest, Wayne Player says he wrote a letter to chairman Ridley and Augusta National to apologise for the gesture but is now banned.

‘It said thanks but no thanks,’ Wayne Player said of Augusta’s reply. ‘It said, you know, 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. 

‘They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, I found out that that’s not quite true.’

Wayne Player (right) says he has been banned for life from the Masters for holding up a packet of golf balls by Lee Elder (centre) during a tribute to him in the honorary starters ceremony

Player, son of the legendary Gary Player (centre), who teed off during the ceremony, says he wrote to apologise to Augusta following the stunt in 2021 but his ban is in place

Wayne Player also claimed that he spoke to Elder, who he says held no hard feelings for his stunt during such a poignant moment.

‘I’ve got Lee’s cellphone number. I called and I said, “You know, Lee, I love you guys”. You know, everyone said I was disrespectful for a special moment in time for Elder. I said I was sorry, and I didn’t mean to take up his special time. 

‘He said, “Wayne, you know how much I love you. Right?” It didn’t cross his mind. That’s important for people to know,’ Player said.

And speaking of his Augusta ban, he continued: ‘I don’t mind letting people know. 

‘To be completely transparent I think it is a cool story because you know, the (Augusta) National never really came out formally and said, “Oh, we’re, you know, not allowing Wayne Player to come back to the Masters.” They never ever said that to the media. That’s just the way they do it. They don’t say much.’

Gary Player was criticised at this year’s Masters event for wearing a Golf Saudi logo during the ceremony. 

The nine-time major champion is a Golf Saudi ambassador and launched a defence of Phil Mickelson, who was missed the tournament after backing a proposed breakaway Saudi golf league despite describing them as ‘scary mother*******’ and  saying they ‘have a horrible record on human rights’. 

Gary Player, 86, said: ‘I have a special thought on Phil Mickelson. I think we live in a time now when we are such a judgmental society, a litigious society, a critical society, where people get crucified. 

Elder was the first African-American to compete in The Masters – he died last November

Gary Player (right) was criticised for wearing Golf Saudi attire during this year’s ceremony

‘The greatest PR man on the golf Tour in the last five or X amount of years has been Phil Mickelson. He has been the ideal man for a sponsor, for professional golf, for the public, the way he’s handled the public, with dignity and with love.

‘And he makes a mistake, which every one of you in this room have made a damn mistake. We all have. And he said he’s sorry. But even the Lord God will forgive you of your iniquities if you ask for forgiveness. 

‘He said terrible things, but we all make mistakes. Hold your head up high. You’ve made a mistake. Everybody makes a mistake. And he should go on with his life.’

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