Lee Elder, First Black Golfer to Play at the Masters, Dies at 87

Lee Elder watches the flight of his ball as he tees off at the Masters in 1975. Elder told CNN in 2015 that making his Masters debut was a “very nerve-racking” experience. “I was shaking so badly, I did not know if I was even going to be able to tee up the ball,” he said.

Lee Elder, who was the first Black golfer to play at the Masters, has died at the age of 87, the PGA Tour confirmed on Monday.

Elder broke through Augusta’s race barrier at the 1975 edition of the famous competition.

He was honored at the 2021 Masters, joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter in the ceremonial first tee shot to begin the tournament.

Elder told CNN in 2015 that making his Masters debut in Augusta, Georgia, was a “very nerve-racking” experience.

“I was shaking so badly, I did not know if I was even going to be able to tee up the ball,” he said.

“How I got through it I do not know, just with the help of the Almighty I got there and was able to put my ball on the tee.”

A pioneer

Elder broke into the game in the US during the 1960s and 70s, a notoriously volatile period for race relations.

In doing so, he became one of golf’s most recognizable faces, but that came with its problems.

At one tournament, he had been forced to change in the parking lot after being refused entry to the clubhouse; during another, his ball had been hurled into a hedge by a spectator.

Even in the year leading up to his breakthrough Masters appearance, Elder received intimidation and threats, much of which warned him not to travel to Georgia — some of it made plain to him what would happen if he did.

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SOURCE: CNN, Ben Morse

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