Lee Elder, first Black golfer to play in the Masters, dies at 87

Sports

Lee Elder posed for a picture on the first tee at the Masters golf tournament Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, announced today that Lee Elder, the first Black man to compete in the Masters Tournament 45 years ago, will be honored by establishing scholarships in his name and inviting him to be an Honorary Starter for the 2021 Masters. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Lee Elder, a golfer who broke the color barrier in the sport, has died. He was 87.

Elder was the first Black golfer to play the Masters Tournament in 1975. Originally from Texas, Elder grew up in Los Angeles and worked as a caddie in high school. He did not play his first full round of golf until he was 16 years old. He received his first PGA Tour card in 1968 and played professionally until retiring in 2005.

During his career, he had four wins on the PGA Tour: the 1974 Monsanto Open, the 1976 Houston Open, the 1978 Greater Milwaukee Open and the 1978 American Express Westchester Classic. He also had eight wins on the Senior PGA Tour.

Elder’s win in the 1974 Monsanto Open qualified him to play in the Masters in Augusta the following year. On the first day, the then-40-year-old Elder shot a 74 and a 78 on the second day. Ultimately, he missed the cut, but made history.

“There were no incidents, other than a few rednecks on the bank of the 16th green whooping and applauding when he missed a short putt,” longtime golf writer Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated about Elder’s performance. “People were polite and gave him a generous hand as he trudged up and down the hills.”

Earlier this year, Elder was awarded an honorary doctorate from Paine College for his outstanding achievements throughout his lifetime.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis recently proclaimed April 6 as “Lee Elder Day.”

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