Lee Elder joins Nicklaus, Player to open Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — As the solar peeked over the tall Georgia pines on Thursday morning, Lee Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as honorary starters on the primary tee at Augusta National Golf Club for the eighty fifth version of the Masters.

Elder, 86, was pushed to the No. 1 tee in a cart. Using a cane to stroll and an oxygen tank to assist him breathe, Elder did not hit a ceremonial tee shot like the previous champions.

It did not matter.

“I definitely wish to say thanks so very a lot for this nice alternative,” Elder stated throughout a information convention shortly after. “For me and my household, I feel it was one of the crucial emotional experiences that I’ve ever witnessed or been concerned in. It is definitely one thing that I’ll cherish for the remainder of my life as a result of I’ve cherished coming to Augusta National and taking part in right here the occasions that I’ve performed right here with lots of my buddies which might be members right here.”

At the pandemic-delayed Masters in November, Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley introduced that Elder, the primary Black man to play within the Masters, can be invited to affix Nicklaus and Player as an honorary starter. The membership additionally endowed two scholarships at Paine College, a close-by HBCU, in Elder’s identify.

“Lee Elder is the primary Black man to compete within the Masters, and in doing so blazed a path that may encourage the sport of golf and future generations of gamers,” Ridley stated Thursday morning, whereas introducing Elder to a gallery of some hundred patrons.

Former Masters champions Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson and Cameron Champ, a Black golfer competing in his second Masters this week, stood shut by. So did a number of Black membership professionals who had been invited to the ceremony.

“They have been undoubtedly impressed by Lee Elder and his message that the sport of golf is for everybody,” Ridley stated. “Today, Lee Elder will encourage us and make historical past as soon as extra, not with a drive, however along with his presence, energy and character.

“Lee, it’s my privilege to say, ‘You have the honors.'”

Elder, who grew up in Dallas, Texas, did not play a spherical of 18 holes till he was 16. He labored in professional outlets and locker rooms and caddied at golf programs that have been segregated throughout the Nineteen Fifties. After serving within the Army, he joined the United Golf Association, a tour for Black gamers, successful 18 of twenty-two occasions throughout one stretch.

In 1968, after saving the $6,500 required to affix the PGA Tour, Elder earned his tour card by ending ninth at Q-school. During his rookie season, he misplaced to Nicklaus in a playoff on the American Golf Classic, falling on the fifth gap of sudden loss of life at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

“I feel that basically prompted my profession,” Elder stated. “I do know after that I started to blossom fairly nicely, and I feel that what occurred is that it actually modified my recreation as a result of I knew that if I might play 5 additional holes with the nice Jack Nicklaus, I knew that I had arrived and that I might play on the tour.”

Elder additionally has a detailed connection to Player, a three-time Masters champion from South Africa. In 1971, Player invited Elder to play within the South African PGA Championship in Johannesburg. Elder agreed to go, however provided that the South African authorities promised he would not be subjected to apartheid.

“It’s fairly unhappy to suppose that in these days, with the segregation coverage that South Africa had, that I needed to go to my president and get permission for Lee Elder to come back and play in our PGA,” Player stated.

Elder gained the 1971 Nigerian Open whereas visiting Africa.

“You can think about at the moment in historical past how encouraging it was for a younger Black boy to see this champion taking part in, after which after all with Tiger Woods approaching, it was simply completely improbable for the folks of any coloration all over the world,” Player stated.

Elder certified for the Masters by successful the 1974 Pensacola Open for his first PGA Tour victory. Because of loss of life threats, the trophy ceremony came about contained in the clubhouse, as an alternative of on the 18th inexperienced. His Masters invitation got here 41 years after the primary event was performed in 1934, the identical yr he was born.

“I used to be type of astonished when that was introduced, {that a} Black participant hadn’t performed as a result of Lee had definitely performed nicely sufficient, and he had Teddy Rhodes earlier than him and he had Charlie Sifford earlier than him and fellows who might nicely have performed, been invited to the Masters,” Nicklaus stated. “I assumed it was lengthy overdue when he lastly bought invited.”

When Elder arrived in Augusta for the 1975 Masters, he rented two homes due to security issues. He and his buddies have been denied a meal at a restaurant due to their race, so the president of Paine College organized for the college’s cafeteria staff to prepare dinner for him the remainder of the week.

“The strongest reminiscence as I recall was how nervous I used to be going to the primary tee,” Elder stated. “But what I keep in mind a lot about my first go to right here was the truth that each tee and each inexperienced that I walked on, I bought great ovations. I feel once you obtain one thing like that, it helps to settle [you] down. I’ll inform you, I used to be so nervous as we started play that it took me a number of holes to type of relax.”

Elder missed the minimize by 4 strokes. Nicklaus gained his fifth inexperienced jacket by beating Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf by 1.

Elder performed within the Masters six occasions between 1975 and 1981, making the minimize 3 times. His finest end was a tie for seventeenth in 1979.

“I definitely hope that the issues that I’ve carried out have impressed a number of younger Black gamers and they’ll proceed on with it,” Elder stated.

He was again on the No. 1 tee at Augusta National on Thursday, inspiring them as soon as once more.

Source hyperlink

Related Articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles