Oldest PGA member Errie Ball, who played in first Masters, dies at 103

Errie Ball, the lone surviving participant from the inaugural Masters, and the oldest PGA member, died Wednesday morning of natural causes at Martin Hospital South in Stuart, Fla., according to the PGA of America. He was 103. Ball had been hospitalized since Saturday after having complained of breathing difficulty.

Samuel Henry "Errie" Ball, a native of Wales, came to the U.S. to work as an assistant to his uncle, Frank Ball, at Bobby Jones’ home club, East Lake in Atlanta. Ball joined the PGA of America in 1932. He had been the head pro at Butler National in Oak Brook, Ill., site of the PGA Tour’s former Western Open. Ball was inducted into the PGA’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

According to the PGA, Ball competed in 25 major championships, including that 1934 Masters, which was then called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. Among his golf titles, he was a three-time Illinois PGA champion and won the Illinois Open and the Illinois PGA Senior.

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In recent years, Ball could be found teaching at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, Fla., where he gave lessons into his 100s.

"The PGA of America is saddened by the passing of Errie Ball, a professional in all aspects of life," said Ted Bishop, the PGA of America’s president. "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 married to the former Maxine "Maxie" Wright for 77 years. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Leslie, of Miami; brothers Tom, of South Africa, and John, of England; two granddaughters and a great-grandson.