Lee Elder, 1st Black golfer to play Masters, dies at age 87

Golf

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)

Lee Elder, who broke down racial barriers as the first Black golfer to play in the Masters and paved the way for Tiger Woods and others to follow, has died at the age of 87.

The PGA Tour announced Elder’s death, which was first reported by Debert Cook of African American Golfers Digest. No cause or details were immediately available, but the tour said it confirmed Elder’s death with his family.

A native Texan who developed his game during segregated times while caddying, Elder made history in 1975 at Augusta National, which had held an all-white tournament until he received an invitation after winning the Monsanto Open.

Elder missed the cut but forever stamped himself as a groundbreaking figure in a sport that had never been known for racial tolerance.

Twenty-two years later, Woods became the first Black golfer to capture the green jacket, launching one of the greatest careers in golf history.

This past April, in the wake of social justice protests that roiled the nation, the Masters honored Elder by having him join Jack Nickaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial opening tee shots.

Elder was in poor health and unable to actually take a swing, but he held up his driver proudly at the first tee, clearly moved by the gesture.

“For me and my family, I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in,” he said.

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