Lee Elder, a barrier-breaking Black golfer, dies at 87 after the barrier-breaking Black golfer
Lee Elder, who broke down racial barriers as the first Black golfer to play in the Masters and provided the way for Tiger Woods and others to follow, passed away at the age of 87.
The PGA Tour reported that Mr. Elder's death with his family was immediately confirmed, but the PGA Tour said.
Mr. Elder made history in 1975 at Augusta National, which had been an all-white tournament until he received an invitation after winning the Monsanto Open the previous year.
Mr. Elder missed the cut at his first Masters, but he recognized himself as a lifelong figure in a sport that had never been known for racial tolerance.
Woods became the first Black golfer to take the green jacket twenty-two years later, becoming the first Black golfer to achieve the feat, launching one of golf's most successful careers.
The Masters honored Mr. Elder by joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial opening tee shots in April, in the aftermath of social justice wars that roiled the nation.
Mr. Elder was in poor health and unable to take a swing, but he stood up his driver proudly at the initial tire, seemingly confused by the moment.
I believe it was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever witnessed or been involved in in for me and my family, he said.
Mr. Elder was referred to as Mr. Elder as a "adevary pioneer in the game of golf," as Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of Lee Elder's death," Ridley stated in a statement. "Lee was a source of inspiration to so many young guys and women of color, not just through his play, but also through his commitment to education and community."
"Lee will always be a part of the history of the Masters Tournament. His presence will be greatly missed, but his legacy will be remembered."
Mr. Elder began golfing as a caddie, since it was basically the only way Black people could be allowed to stay on the course. He was able to polish his game while serving in the Army and, after his discharge, joined the United Golf Association Tour for Black players in the early 1960s.
Finally, Mr. Elder was able to earn a living at the age of 33 by earning his first tour card for the 1968 season. He was recognized as one of the UGA's finest players, but poor prize money made it difficult to earn a living. Mr. Elder was eventually able to afford PGA qualifying school, where he won his first tour card for the 1968 season.
Nicklaus' memorable loss to Nicklaus on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff at the American Golf Classic was the highlight of his rookie year.
Mr. Elder would go on to win four PGA Tour victories and eight more PGA Tour Champions for 50-and-over gamers. He played in all four major championships, tied for 11th at both the 1974 PGA Championship and the 1979 US Open. His greatest finish at the Masters was a tie for 17th, also in 1979.
However, Mr. Elder's influence on the game spanned a lot from wins and losses to be completely appreciated, even if his legacy was decades to last.
It always surprised me that presidents of the United States would be awarding these various awards to athletes for their athletic prowess, and here was a guy that never received the awards that he actually duly deserved, Player added.
Mr. Elder died when he played in his first Masters at 40, and so many of his major years have been stolen from him by the ominous abuse of racism.
PGA was given a Caucasian-only rule until 1961, when Jackie Robinson crossed baseball's color barrier, and it took another 14 years for the Masters to finally select a Black golfer.
Augusta National recognized Mr. Elder's significant contributions by establishing two scholarships in his name at Paine College, a historically Black school in Augusta, before the pandemic-delayed Masters was played for the first time in November.
At this year's Masters, the club also invited him to take part in the ceremonial tee shot with Nicklaus and Player.
It's a tremendous honor, and I adore it very much, and I will always cherish it, Mr. Elder said.
It was long overdue," Nicklaus added, "It was long overdue."
Mr. Elder was familiar with Robinson, who died in 1972, and he was close to Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats throughout his stellar baseball career, particularly as he approached Babe Ruth's home run mark.
Aaron broke his record of 715th homer on April 8, 1974, on April 8, 1974.
Mr. Elder sought for the Monsanto Open and won the Masters for 12 days after winning the Monsanto Open.
Mr. Elder met with Aaron shortly before the Hammer died in January.
We talked about several things... our sports, our particular sport, and the involvement that we felt that we could assist other young Blacks who was coming up behind us, Mr. Elder said. And I certainly hope that the things I have done have inspired a lot of young Black players and they will continue on with it.
Mr. Elder was at Augusta National for Woods' historic win in 1997, and he wasn't going to miss seeing a Black man win the tournament for the first time.
After all, Mr. Elder paved the way.