AUGUSTA, GA. – A man who won’t hit a single shot at this year’s 2021 Masters this year stole the show at Augusta National on Thursday morning. Lee Elder – the first black man to play in the Masters in 1975 – was honored by Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley, active star golfers, and a group of patrons on the first tee when Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit their ceremonial tee shots.
Elder did not participate in a swing, but he did receive a standing ovation from everyone in attendance, including former champions Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, who both appeared in their green jackets. They were joined by the only black player on the field this year, Cameron Champ.
Ridley announced at the 2020 Masters in November that Elder would be honored this year, and it was fantastic to see that come to fruition on Thursday, even though he didn’t feel fit enough to swing a club. Elder played in six Masters overall and never finished better than T17, but he won four times in his PGA Tour career and did something far more important than collecting major championship trophies.
Elder paved the way – even in the midst of threats and hostility – for future black golfers to compete at the highest level. That’s no small feat, and given that the greatest player of all time is also black and also made history at Augusta National, it’s one of the underrated realities in golf history. That changed this week and especially on the first tee on Thursday morning.
“… We will also reflect on the moment at Augusta National in 1975 when Lee Elder bravely broke through barriers when his name was announced on the first tee,” said Chairman Ridley this week. “And I can’t wait to have the honor of introducing Lee and celebrating his inspiring legacy with our customers and viewers around the world.”
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