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  • April 13, 2021

Exclusive: Emotional scenes at The Masters as Lee Elder, the first black golfer to compete at Augusta, becomes honorary starter as NBA star Steph Curry is among those to thank him

 Exclusive: Emotional scenes at The Masters as Lee Elder, the first black golfer to compete at Augusta, becomes honorary starter as NBA star Steph Curry is among those to thank him


There were emotional scenes at Augusta on the first day of the 2021 Masters.

Lee Elder, who was the first black player to compete in the world famous golf tournament, joined former champions Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as an honorary starter.

Elder joined Player and Nicklaus on the first tee to continue the Masters tradition

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Elder joined Player and Nicklaus on the first tee to continue the Masters tradition

Elder made his Masters debut in 1975 and recorded a best finish of joint 17th in 1979 from six appearances.

The honorary starters are a tradition many look forward to as the present salutes its past and recognises the greats who have gone before them.

Elder, 86, is the first honorary starter added to the ceremony since Player in 2012. Nicklaus hit his first honorary tee shot in 2010 and Arnold Palmer took part until his death in 2016.

“I hope I don’t cry,” Elder said beforehand. “But I am sure that is going to happen. With friends and family surrounding me, though, it will be a lot easier.”

News of the invite was announced in November and Elder revealed Tiger Woods was among the first to congratulate him, while NBA star Steph Curry posted a video thanking him for the legacy he left behind and for ‘blazing a path and overcoming so many obstacles’.

And Player paid tribute to the courage of his friend.

“Lee Elder has been a very courageous man,” he said.

“In 1969 I invited him down to South Africa in the midst of apartheid to play in our PGA. He played well.

Player was among many to pay tribute to his friend, who was the first black player at The Masters when he teed off in 1975

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Player was among many to pay tribute to his friend, who was the first black player at The Masters when he teed off in 1975

“And he gave a lot of young black people great encouragement for sport in the future.

“We had a lot of black players playing on our Tour when we were young – Charlie Sifford was another.

“Think about it – what Lee Elder, Charlie and the other black golfers did inspired Tiger Woods as his father did.

“And how do you ever explain what role Tiger Woods has played in this great game?

Elder won four times on the PGA Tour, including the 1974 Monsanto Open title that earned him an invitation to the Masters the following year

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Elder won four times on the PGA Tour, including the 1974 Monsanto Open title that earned him an invitation to the Masters the following year

“Bigger galleries, better ratings on TV, greater prize money etc – so nice to see.

“I look forward to being with you, Lee. You don’t hit the ball very far anymore, but I know you’ll hit it dead straight off the firs tee.

“We’re privileged to be part of the greatest game that ever lived. It’s a sport where you make friends, it’s a sport where you travel and it has longevity like no other sport. Take care.”





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