AAA  Jul. 2, 2014 6:30 PM ET
Errie Ball, participant in first Masters, dies at 103
John Boyette, The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. (MCT)
McClatchy/Tribune - MCT Information Services
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Errie Ball, who played in the first Masters Tournament in 1934 and was the oldest living participant, died Wednesday.

He was 103.

“The PGA of America is saddened by the passing of Errie Ball, a professional in all aspects of life,” PGA of America President Ted Bishop said in a statement. “Errie’s amazing career spans the legends of the game – from Harry Vardon through Tiger Woods. His longevity, according to those who knew him best, was founded upon a love of people. Each day, like each step he took on the course, was spent with purpose. We will miss him dearly, but his legacy continues to shine through the many PGA professionals he inspired to grow our game.”

Ball was friends with Masters and Augusta National Golf Club co-founder Bobby Jones. The famous amateur invited Ball to play in the Augusta National Invitation Tournament when he launched it 80 years ago.

“I was just tickled to death and just wondered why he would send me one,” Ball told The Augusta Chronicle in a 2009 interview. “I had won the Southeastern PGA back then. I think that helped in getting an invitation.”

Ball’s uncle, Frank Ball, was the club pro at East Lake in Atlanta where Jones played. Eight-time British Amateur champion John Ball was his cousin.

Ball was the youngest to compete in the British Open when he was 15 in 1926. That was when Jones won his first claret jug, and Ball was in the field again at Hoylake in 1930 when Jones captured the third leg of his Grand Slam. Jones persuaded Ball to come to the United States to work for his uncle at East Lake as an assistant pro.

“He said, ‘You’d do well over there,’ “ Ball said. “And he was right. I’ve done well. Thanks to him, it opened a lot of doors.”

Ball tied for 38th in the inaugural Masters after his final-round score of 86 knocked him out of a chance to finish in the top 10.

He wouldn’t make it back to Augusta for more than two decades. He missed the cut in 1957 after rounds of 75 and 78.

“Today they beat their brains out trying to get in it,” Ball said in 2009. “I feel fortunate that I was able to play two of them.”

Ball became a PGA professional in 1931 and was the oldest living PGA member. He was inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame in 2011.

After a career at various courses throughout the United States, Ball landed at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, Fla., where he was the pro emeritus.

Staff writer Scott Michaux contributed to this article.

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