Lee Elder, first Black golfer to play in the Masters, passes away at age 87

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Lee Elder
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Golf legend Lee Elder has passed away at the age of 87 after being a trailblazer on the PGA Tour for Black athletes.

Elder broke racial barriers when he became the first Black player to compete in the Masters back in 1975. The Masters is held in Augusta, Georgia every year and is the most prestigious of golf tournaments held by the PGA Tour. 

Elder was a four-time winner on the PGA Tour and played in 34 major championships, recording seven top-25 finishes.

This past April, Elder was celebrated and named as an honorary starter alongside Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at the Masters.

“My heart is very soft this morning, not heavy soft, soft because of the wonderful things that I have encountered since arriving here on Monday and being able to see some of the great friends that I have made over the past years, especially like these two gentlemen that are here,” Elder said at the time about Nicklaus and Player.

“We have competed against each other, and we have certainly enjoyed a lot of pleasant moments. I just want to say thank you so very much to have me here. It’s a great honor, and I cherish it very much, and I will always cherish it, and I want to thank the chairman for extending me this great privilege.”

When Tiger Woods became the first Black player to win the Masters in 1997, he acknowledged the groundwork laid by Elder and Charlie Sifford — the first Black golfer to compete on the PGA Tour.

“I wasn’t the pioneer. Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder and Teddy Rhodes paved the way,” Woods said at the time. “I was thinking about them and what they’ve done for me as I was coming up the 18th fairway. I said a little prayer and a thanks to those guys. They are the ones who did it for me.”

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