Gary Player, the nine-time major championship winner, is suing his son and grandson over memorabilia, including trophies and clubs, which he claims the duo sold or attempted to sell despite an agreement requiring the items to be returned to him.
Player, a part-time Jupiter Island, Florida resident, filed a legal complaint against his son Marc Player in Palm Beach County in May, followed by a November lawsuit against Marc’s son, Damian Player.
According to Gary Player’s attorney Stuart Singer, the lawsuits were “reluctantly” filed following a years-long dispute between Gary Player and Marc Player over the 87-year-collectibles old’s after he ended a business relationship with his son in 2019.
Damian Player was named in a separate lawsuit because it is alleged that he solicited buyers for memorabilia stored in 19 lockers at a South Carolina storage facility, and that he sold or assisted in the sale of multiple Rolex watches to someone in Florida “for significant sums of money.”
According to court filings, his 1974 Masters Tournament Trophy sold for $523,483, his South African Open Trophy sold for $48,841, his 1965 U.S. Open irons sold for $17,947, and his 52nd Masters’ golf shoes sold for $1,171.
“Only after much reluctance and many years of attempting to avoid this did Gary have to enforce his rights in this manner,” Singer said.
The lawsuit also claims Marc Player failed to transfer his father’s social media accounts and the web domain name GaryPlayer.com.
Marc Player’s attorney, Darren Heitner, said the lawsuit is in its “infancy,” but in a response filed in court, he claimed the settlement agreement reached in 2021 is invalid because the property rights are owned by a trust. Damian Player, who could not be reached for comment, has not retained Heitner.
Gary Player, a South African native, is regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time, having won nine major championships on the regular tour and nine on the Champions Tour. In 1974, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame after winning the Masters in 1961.
“At 87, he’s still shooting par golf,” Singer said.
Player had six children with his wife Vivienne, who died of cancer in August 2021.
Former President Donald Trump presented Player with the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier that year on January 7.
Marc Player worked as a manager for his father for nearly two decades. Gary Player has assigned the rights to some trademarks, likenesses, logos, and images to entities led by his son over the years. According to Singer, Gary Player stated in 2019 that he was revoking the rights after a claim was made that he was owed $5 million by Marc Player.
Marc put up trophies and other memorabilia for auction without Gary Player’s permission, according to a statement posted on Gary Player’s Twitter account in August.
“These items are mine, and I have taken steps to recover them,” the post stated.
Heitner calls the claims against Marc “petty” and “baseless” in a response posted to Marc Player’s Twitter account. He stated that his parents gave him some memorabilia, which has remained in his possession for decades.
“You cannot take back what is no longer yours,” Heitner wrote.
The statement also mentions a 2002 collection of 300 pieces of memorabilia sold by Christie’s in London to South African billionaire Johann Rupert.
According to a 2003 Palm Beach Post article, Gary Player’s announcement that he would sell memorabilia through Christie’s stunned golf fans as well as some of his closest friends and family members.
People speculated about the reason for the sale, but Player stated that he was doing it to raise funds for his Blair Atholl School on his South African estate for 450 underprivileged children, to establish a trust fund for his family, and to avoid any fighting among his children over the items after his death.
“I don’t want this divided among my children,” Player stated in 2003. “I would turn in my grave if I died and this one wanted the U.S. Open and this one wanted the British Open. In my career, I’ve seen a lot of people die, and the way their families fought over whatever was left to them was tragic.”
According to one of the lawsuits, in August, an auction site listed for sale a 1959 Gary Player Black Knight Putter, the 1968 Carreras Piccadilly World Match Play Golf trophy, Gary Player golf clubs used to win the 1965 U.S. Open, and the 1988 Belgian Classic Crystal Trophy.
On December 8, Circuit Court Judge Gregory Keyser issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Marc Player and anyone associated with him from selling Gary Player items in their possession at the time of the 2021 settlement agreement. It also ordered that any proceeds from the sale of previous items, such as the 1974 Masters Tournament Trophy, be placed in trust, and it temporarily prohibits Marc Player from using his father’s image or name on social media accounts.