News & ToursFebruary 1, 2019

Gary Player's son says arrest and civil trial are misunderstandings, details horrific week in prison

Gary Player Invitational 2016
Kent HornerBEDFORD HILLS, NY - AUGUST 29: Gary Player on the driving range prior to The Berenberg Gary Player Invitational 2016 New York at GlenArbor Golf Club on August 29, 2016 in Bedford Hills, New York. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)

Wayne Player, son to golf legend Gary Player, was arrested over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend last month, the details first reported by the Augusta Chronicle. Player was charged with deposit account fraud/bad check, stemming from renting a house for clients during the 2018 Masters. The Chronicle also noted that Player was involved in a civil suit related to a promotional package tied to the Masters tournament, with a man named Todd Feltz claiming Player acted in bad faith, caused unnecessary expense and physically assaulted him when prying about the whereabouts of promised Masters badges.

Speaking to Golf Digest on Thursday, the 56-year-old Player—who attempted to follow in his father's footsteps in professional golf and competed in 17 PGA Tour events, although never made a cut—gave his side of the story.

Player was on a trip to South Africa with clients when he was stopped by customs agents in Atlanta, who informed him of a warrant in Columbia County. He was then taken to a Clayton County detention center. Since it was a holiday weekend, he could not be processed and spent five nights in jail.

Because he is a diabetic, Player said the prison food was hazardous to his health and claims he was not given the proper amounts of insulin.

"It was very, very stressful for me," Player said on Thursday. "I handled it. You know, I've spent two years in the South African army so I've been disciplined, I've had to deal with adversity. I don't wanna be too soppy, but it was very bad because I kept on asking them to give me more insulin, they refused because if a guy gets in his cell and he has low blood sugar you can die like that. And I kept on hitting the call button and nothing. I mean if you die you die basically."

As for the arrest itself, Player said he originally gave the homeowner a check but the bank rejected it because it wasn't properly filled out. Player said he was contacted by the homeowner's lawyer but merely forgot to send it back. "I'm not trying to make excuses, but that's what happened, and it's on me," Player said. According to Player, all the money has now been returned, with his son footing the bill.

Regarding the civil suit, Player says Feltz had too much to drink and approached Player on Wednesday about the whereabouts of the Masters badges. In the suit, Feltz said he paid $6,850 per person for a package that included badges to the Masters and Par-3 Contest, dinner and drinks with Wayne, breakfast or lunch at the Founders Club on April 4 and 5, and a meet-and-greet with Gary Player and other Masters champions.

Player admits he was unable to secure badges. "At the end of the evening [on Wednesday] I had not given him his Thursday passes, and he had agreed to pay more and bring me cash to pay for more. When Tiger Woods made his comeback those tickets went up 30, 40 percent. So I was still trying to make him whole with these badges the following day, which I was able to still secure. And then he just, at the end of the evening came out right after he was very arrogant towards me, pulled me aside. It was pretty much in my face."

A source familiar with Feltz and Player, which asked to remain unnamed due to pending litigation, painted a slightly different picture. According to the source, Feltz had paid for multiple people to come down, including Wounded Warriors, through a church auction. From the get-go, something seemed off.

"We were supposed to get in on Wednesday, but instead we waited outside Augusta National as Wayne tried to barter for badges for us to get in," the source said. The source said they were finally able to get on the property around 2 p.m. The group never met with Gary Player or any of the other past Masters champions as promised, and when the group was told it didn't have badges for Thursday, Feltz went to confront Player.

Player asserts he didn't headbutt Feltz but instead gave him a "nudge."

"I wouldn't say I did a full-throttle, hit-bus butt; it was a bump," Player says. Police were called and Feltz pressed charges, and Player went to court over simple battery.

"You know it was a long court case," Player said. "We worked it out, pleaded guilty. The judge said, 'Mr. Player you realize you could either go to jail for six months, you get probation or you get a disorderly conduct charge.' And the judge gave me a disorderly conduct charge with a $300 fine. And I've since tried to reach out to Todd Feltz to try and make good with him, but he's obviously not interested because he's doing a civil case against me."

Player has since filed a countersuit for slander against Feltz, who Player says he has known for years. Calls and text messages by Golf Digest to Feltz have not been returned.

Player says the incident, along with the civil suit, have caused him to lose clients and cancel contracts.

"It's basically destroyed my life," Player says. "The media ran with something and ruined my life. I'm not a Ponzi scheme guy. My dad said to me, 'You know my son a promise made is a debt incurred right. You need to deliver.' He's pretty tough with those kind of stuff, but he's also understanding and I love being his son and he wants me to do better."

Player remains optimistic that he will be better off for the ordeal and is looking forward to putting this in the past.

"I've put myself in God's hands and I know faith and I know in my heart I'm a good guy."

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