During the Thursday morning tradition that is the Masters Tournament ceremonial tee shots, honorary starters Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus were joined on the Augusta National first tee for the first time by Lee Elder, who is the first African-American man to compete in the major.
Elder, who did not hit a golf shot from the first tee, was introduced and recognized first by Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley. At the end of the introduction, Elder stood and received a rousing ovation from the crowd around the first tee.
Many fans who were watching the ceremony from home on a Masters live stream noticed, however, that someone was taking away from Elder’s moment. Gary Player’s son, Wayne, who was serving as the nine-time major winner’s ceremonial caddie for the tradition, held a sleeve of OnCore Golf Vero X1 golf balls in his hand throughout Elder’s introduction and the ceremony. It was clear from pictures that Wayne Player was hawking the golf balls by continually holding them prominently in his hand, visible to cameras broadcasting the event.
Oh I guarantee it was. Just look at these gettys, the dude held it up the entire time. pic.twitter.com/O8F6X3TjWt
— Adam Rehberg (@rehbirdie) April 8, 2021
Fans reacted negatively to Wayne Player’s actions, suggesting Player was intentionally taking away from Elder’s great moment of recognition. OnCore Golf, which counts Gary Player as one of its ambassadors and staffers, received criticism, too, for the association.
The criticism became so loud online that Buffalo, N.Y.-based OnCore Golf issued a statement on Twitter rebuking Wayne Player.
The statement read, in part: “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. 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.”
Official Statement from OnCore Golf CEO pic.twitter.com/JAY0CMqMWR
— OnCore Golf (@OnCoreGolf) April 8, 2021
It is unclear why Wayne Player chose to do this, particularly during Elder’s introduction and recognition.