Wayne Player, who failed to make the cut in 17 PGA Tour appearances during his own playing career, was barred from Augusta National for this year’s event after causing controversy during 2021’s ceremonial tee-off.
Acting as his father’s caddy, Player held a box of prominently branded golf balls above the shoulder of Lee Elder in an apparent attempt at marketing.
Elder, who became the first black player in tournament history in 1975, had been recognised for his place in the history in the Masters and golf more widely and appeared for the first time alongside Jack Nicklaus and the elder Player on the first tee.
“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?’” Wayne Player told GolfDigest, revealing that he had been asked to leave the event last year and has since been banned. “It wasn’t premeditated, but it was a tacky thing.
“Well, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I found out that that’s not quite true.
“I don’t mind letting people know. To be completely transparent I think it is a cool story because you know, the 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.”
Player admits he understands why his actions were so heavily criticised given the importance of Elder’s presence, and confirmed that he spoke to Elder after the event to apologise.
“I understand why people took offense to it,” Player said. “Jack [Nicklaus], 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.
“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. And he said, ‘Wayne, you know how much I love you. Right?’ It didn’t cross his mind. That’s important for people to know.”