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Player to join Palmer, Nicklaus as honorary Masters starters

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Gary Player will join Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus as honorary starters for the 2012 Masters Tournament, Billy Payne, Augusta National chairman, announced Tuesday.

“For decades, Gary Player has been the International ambassador for the game of golf,” Payne said. “His significant accomplishments at the Masters, spread over an astounding 52 appearances, have helped form many lasting memories for fans of golf around the world. As an honorary starter, his legacy will be rightfully celebrated alongside two of the tournament’s other all-time greats, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.”

Player was the first international winner of the Masters, in 1961. He also won in 1974 and '78. He appeared in a record 52 tournaments.

“I am thrilled to join my friends Jack and Arnold as an honorary starter,” Player said. “Augusta National is a special place that holds many memories for me. When I won my first green jacket in 1961, Arnold put it on my back. In 1962, Arnold beat me in an 18-hole playoff to win his second in three years. The year after my second win in 1974, Jack became the second man at the time to ever win four Masters. I was there to put the green jacket on both of them. Moments like those are so special and to be able to experience those memories with friends and competitors is something I will never forget.”

Player, Palmer and Nicklaus have combined to win 13 Masters titles, including seven consecutive green jackets between 1960-1966.

The custom of having honorary starters began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison (1963-1973) and Fred McLeod (1963-1976) performing the duties. Byron Nelson (1981-2001, non-consecutive), Gene Sarazen (1981-99), Ken Venturi (1983), Sam Snead (1984-2002), Palmer (2007-present) and Nicklaus (2010-present) continued the practice.

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