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    • Ball, player in first Masters, dies at 103

    • Errie Ball continued to give lessons until after his 100th birthday. (Courtesy PGA of America) Errie Ball continued to give lessons until after his 100th birthday. (Courtesy PGA of America)

    Errie Ball, who played in the first Masters Tournament and was the last surviving player from that inaugural tournament, died July 2 in Stuart, Fla. He was 103.

    Born Nov. 14, 1910 in Wales, Ball received wide acclaim for playing in that first Masters. But he was also a PGA TOUR winner, capturing the 1931 Southeastern PGA Championship in Greensboro, N.C. Ball had arrived in the U.S. only eight months earlier to serve as an assistant pro to his uncle, Frank Ball, at Atlanta’ East Lake Golf Club. In late-July, Ball traveled to North Carolina for the tournament and proceeded to make an eight-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole for a final-round 72 that gave him a one-shot victory over Eddie Miller.

    Ball, the oldest living PGA of America member, having joined the organization in 1932, was the son of professional golfer Harry Ball, who taught his son the game. Between his first PGA TOUR start in 1931 and his final appearance, at the 1977 Western Open, the younger Ball made 78 cuts and recorded three other top-10s—at the 1935 Southeastern PGA Championship (tied for fourth), the 1949 Jacksonville Open (tied for ninth) and the 1952 Tucson Open (tied for 10th).

    Yet with each passing year, it was his 1934 participation in what was then called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament that provided him with most of his notoriety. That year, he shot rounds of 74-75-74-86 to tie for 38th with Abe Espinosa, Gene Kunes and David Ogilvie, Jr., 25 strokes behind winner Horton Smith. Ball played in one other Masters, in 1957, missing the cut. Overall, Ball competed in 23 major championships, making it to the second round of the 1936 and 1948 PGA Championships (both ties for 17th).

    At the time of his death, Ball was the pro emeritus at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart. When he turned 100, in 2011, he was still giving lessons to club members. That same year, the PGA of America inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

    Ball played in one Champions Tour event, the 1986 U.S. Senior Open, missing the cut at Ohio’s Scioto Country Club.

    Funeral services are pending.  

     

    Errie Ball joined George Sargent, 1909 U.S. Open champion (left), Charlie Yates (second from right) and Bobby Jones (right) at the 1934 Masters. (Photo courtesy of PGA of America)

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