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Lee Elder (1934–2021), first Black golfer to play in the Masters

by Kirk Fox

Lee Elder was a pioneering golfer who was the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters when he played in the tournament in 1974.

Pioneering pro golfer

Lee Elder taught himself how to play golf by sneaking onto all white golf courses as a youth. In 1961, he started his pro career on the all-Black United Golf Association tour. He first earned his tour card for the PGA in 1968. Elder won his first PGA tournament in 1974 at the Monsanto Open in Penascola, Florida, which earned him an invitation to play in the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. He received death threats at the Monsanto Open and rented two homes for the Masters so people would not know where he was staying. He won four tournaments in his career and finished in 11th place at the 1979 U.S. Open. He was honored at this year’s Masters tournament on the ceremonial first tee with fellow legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

Notable Quote

“When I won at Pensacola, they had received calls that if I won the tournament I would never get out of there alive. “So when I made the putt to win and I was going out to join my friends, Jim Vickers and Harry Toscano, they had beers in their hands ready for me. Jack Tuthill, who was then the tour supervisor, grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, you can’t go out there.’ I said, ‘Why can’t I?’ He said for me to get in the car so they could drive me back to the clubhouse. In the car, he told me about the threats. – Los Angeles Times March 2021


Tributes to Lee Elder

Full Obituary: Los Angeles Times

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