AUGUSTA, Ga. — The ageless Gary Player made his 31st career hole-in-one, acing the 115 yard, seventh hole of the Masters’ Par 3 Contest. There were a record nine aces on April 6. But the shot of the day belonged to renowned wildlife photographer David Yarrow, who captured the 80-year-old Player making his record fourth ace in the contest.
“I’ve shot Maradona winning the World Cup and historic moments at the Olympics, but I think this is the greatest sports photo I’ve ever shot,” Yarrow said.
He previously assembled Gary Player’s African Wildlife Conservation Portfolio as a tribute to Player’s late brother, Ian, a conservation pioneer who spearheaded efforts to save the White Rhino from near extinction. Yarrow was Player’s guest at Augusta – his first time shooting the Masters since 1996 – and had special access to shoot The Big Three (see images below).
Armed with a Nikon D810 camera, Yarrow headed out to the par-3 course with few preconceived notions. He set up at the seventh hole for one simple reason: “It frames so well, and I thought I could simply get a shot of the gallery clapping for three of the greats of the game as they walked up the hill,” he said. “Nothing special.”
Bo Wood, media manager for Gary Player Group, had walked the first six holes inside the ropes with the Black Knight. A year ago at the Par-3 Contest, Wood captured a stunning image of Jack Nicklaus acing the fourth hole. But now the battery of his camera was on low, and he had turned it off to conserve what little power remained. Moments before Player teed it up, a single thought raced through Wood’s mind: “Man, if something incredible does happen and I miss it, I’m going to get fired.”
He turned his camera back on, crouched down behind Player, and snapped a shot that shows Player holding his follow-through, still gazing at the ball in mid-flight. It landed approximately 20 feet to the right of the hole, and Player began walking after it. The patrons’ whipped into a frenzy as the ball funneled toward the hole as if drawn by a magnet.
“You just hear this roar of the crowd, and that’s when I just took off,” Wood recalled. “I knew he was going to make some great reaction. I thought he was going to do the leg kick, too.”
That would come later.
Both Wood and Yarrow described the roar as deafening.
“Of all the pictures I’ve seen of Augusta, I’ve never seen that many people celebrating in focus,” Yarrow said.
He has studied the faces and reactions of the thousands of people captured for posterity in the photograph. Among his favorite patrons are a handful of witnesses holding their cameras aloft in celebration and missing out on capturing this magical moment.
Perhaps they will be interested in buying a copy for a good cause. Yarrow hopes to sell 30 copies of the timeless black-and-white image (37 inches by 72 inches) to raise $500,000 for the Gary Player Foundation and improve the lives of underprivileged children around the world. Yarrow can be reached at [email protected]