Lee Elder, Pioneering Golfer, Dies At 87

Photo: Getty Images

Lee Elder, legendary golfer, has passed away at the age of 87, the PGA Tour confirmed Monday (November 29).

In 1975, Lee Elder broke barriers in golf by becoming the first Black player to play in the coveted Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. He told CNN in 2015, that the experience was "nerve-racking."

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

He was recently honored at the 2021 competition alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter in first tee shot to begin the tournament.

Photo: Getty Images

Lee Elder was born in Dallas, Texas in 1934 and picked up the game by taking jobs as a golf caddie in Los Angeles and playing whenever he got the chance.

His career took off after playing a match against Joe Louis, where the famed heavyweight boxer's golf instructor, Ted Rhodes took interest in Elder and mentored him.

In 1961, after completing Army service, Elder joined the United Golfer's Association (UGA) –– an equivalent of Negro Leagues in baseball –– and went on to win 21 out of 23 UGA tournaments.

Elder's path to the 1975 Master's opened up in 1961 when Charlie Sifford, who died in 2015, became the first Black player brought into the previously "white-only" PGA.

Elder later earned his own spot in 1967 and received national recognition in 1968 when he tied with Nicklaus after 72 holes.

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