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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 April 2006, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Masters memories for survivor, 95
Errie Ball (Photo courtesy of Willoughby Golf Club)
Errie Ball wants to resume playing at his club in Florida after surgery
A 95-year-old Welsh-born golfer joins millions watching the US Masters on TV as the last surviving player to have taken part in the first tournament.

Bangor-born Errie Ball was 23 when he was in a field of 72 in the inaugural Masters at Augusta, Georgia, in 1934.

The son of the professional at St Deiniol golf club, he played in his first British Open at just 15.

He and his wife live in Florida, and after heart surgery he plans to resume playing three times a week.

He left Bangor when he was a child but can recall living near the "very nice" golf course overlooking Penrhyn Castle on the city's outskirts.

All the Ball family, originally from Hoylake near Liverpool, were golfers.

"Errie" - real name Samuel Henry - moved to the United States to pursue his golfing career in 1930.

Augusta in Georgia, home of the US Masters
This year's Masters at Augusta in Georgia is the 70th tournament

"My uncle Frank [Ball] was assistant at Eastlake County Club in Atlanta where Bobby Jones [founder of the first Masters tournament] was a member," he said.

The first Masters was called the Augusta Invitational. The tournament name was changed to the Masters the following year.

"They were trying to get it off the ground then, trying to promote it," he added.

He finished 38th in the first tournament and did not play at another Masters until 1957 when things were "starting to move - I knew then it was going to be big."

He is the sole survivor of the class of 1934, following the death of a fellow competitor last October.

Henry Ball (picture: Bangor Golf Club)
Errie's father Henry was club professional in Bangor

Mr Ball, who played in nearly 50 major tournaments, admires modern players, who can drive the ball much further than he did.

"I could hit around 240 yards which was a long drive at the time," he said.

He attributes the improvements to better equipment and course, and believes it is impossible to compare today's players with stars from yesteryear.

Mr Ball, who has been married for almost 70 years to Maxie, 91, had heart surgery last year. But he said he was now getting his strength back and would soon resume playing golf three times a week.

St Deiniol's golf club in Bangor celebrates its centenary this year with a book available in May on the club's history. It will feature photographs of the Ball family in action.




SEE ALSO:
Live: The Masters
07 Apr 06 |  Golf
Masters leaderboard
06 Apr 06 |  Golf


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