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Longtime PGA member 'Errie' Ball, who played in 1st Masters, dies at 103

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STUART, Fla. - Samuel Henry "Errie" Ball, who played in the first Masters, died Wednesday. The golf pro was 103.

Ball's daughter, Leslie Adams Gogarty, says her father died at Martin Hospital South in Stuart, Florida. Ball was most recently director of golf at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart.

He was a PGA of America member for 83 years, which the organization says is a membership record. Ball was inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame in 2011.

Ball, born in Wales, came from a long line of golf professionals and was taught the game by his father.

The game "was such a huge part of his life," Gogarty said.

Ball played in the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament in 1934, which later became the Masters, and finished tied for 38th, 25 shots behind winner Horton Smith. Ball went on to compete in 19 Senior PGA Championships, tying for second in the 1962 tournament.

Gogarty said Ball was a pro clubs in Illinois, Arizona and Florida among his stops. He was a three-time winner of the Illinois PGA and also won the Illinois Open and the Illinois PGA Senior event.

Among his golf titles, he was a three-time Illinois PGA champion and won the Illinois Open and the Illinois PGA Senior.

Gogarty said her father was encouraged to come to the United States by golf great Bobby Jones. Once here, Ball worked at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, which was Jones' home club. That continued a career of teaching and playing that stretched Ball continued until he was 100, his daughter said.

"He would go out and continue to teach," she said. "He enjoyed giving lessons to his friends."

Gogarty remembered her father playing every day when she was a child, often following him through rounds and tournaments.

She said her father was amazed at how the game grew in popularity over time. Gogarty said he was invited back to Augusta National a few times in recent years, but didn't attend.

"He always said he wanted to remember (Augusta) the way it was," she said.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop said his organization was saddened by Ball's death.

"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," Bishop said.

Gogarty said her father blended a friendly style with a quiet nature. He loved singing and dancing, she recalled, and enjoyed sharing the game that was his life with others.

"He was a very outstanding person with a good heart," she said.

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