Originally created 05/16/02

Gary Player disappointed about Masters age limit



PRINCETON, N.J. -- Gary Player says he is disappointed about Augusta National's decision to set an age limit for play in the Masters.

The new rule revokes the lifetime exemption that had been in place for past champions, replacing it with a maximum age of 65. That means next year will be the last trip to Augusta National for Player, a three-time Masters champion.

Player already is 66 but was granted one more invitation.

Player said he probably would not return to Augusta National after next year, even though past champions will be invited back for the week's festivities, including the champions' dinner.

"You cannot be bitter in life. I learned that from my great ex-president, Nelson Mandela," Player, a native of South Africa, said Wednesday. "But they made a promise to us that we could play as long as we wanted to, using our discretion.

"I planned on playing another three years and now, all of the sudden, they say you can't come back after next year. That's not keeping your word, not keeping your promise."

Player, who was preparing for the Senior PGA Tour's Instinet Classic on the Tournament Players Club at the Jasna Polana course he designed, believes some past champions took advantage of the lifetime exemption and played long after they should have quit.

But he doesn't think Augusta National should hold that against him.

"I will say there were some who abused it," he said. "The committee should have said that you can come back only if you complete 36 holes. If you withdraw, then you can't come back. But they shouldn't take it out on all the others. It's not like I can't get around there anymore."