Pioneering Black Golfer Lee Elder Passes Away

When many think of Blacks golfing, the first person that comes to mind is Tiger. But, the more seasoned may mention Calvin Pete or Lee Elder of course. Lee Elder, 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. He had been in poor health and wore an oxygen tube beneath his nose when he appeared.

PGA posted on Twitter, “Lee Elder has passed away at the age of 87. In 1975, he made history as the first African American to compete in the Masters Tournament. Lee was honored this past April at Augusta National and his legacy will surely live.”

Elder got into golf as a caddie, since that essentially was the only conduit Black people had to be permitted on the course. He was able to polish his game while serving in the Army and, after his discharge, joined the United Golf Association Tour for Black players in the early 1960s.

Elder made history in 1975 at Augusta National, which had been an all-white tournament until he received an invitation after winning the Monsanto Open the previous year. Woods became the first Black golfer to capture the green jacket, launching one of the greatest careers in golf history. Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, called Elder “a true pioneer in the game of golf.”

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.