Robert Lee Elder was born July 14, 1934 in Dallas, one of 10 children. Her father, Charles, a coal truck driver, was killed during military service in Germany during World War II when Lee was 9 years old. Her mother, Almeta, died three months later.
Elder was a caddy at an all-white club in the Dallas area, earning tips to help his family, then moved to Los Angeles to live with an aunt. He again worked as a caddy and dropped out of high school to pursue a career in golf, sometimes traveling the southwest as a “hustler,” winning private bets against players who had no idea what. point he was good.
At 18, after playing heavyweight champion Joe Louis, an avid golfer, Elder became a protégé of Rhodes, who was Louis’s golf instructor.
After two years in the US Army, Elder joined the United Golfers Association tour in 1961. In a streak of 22 consecutive tournaments, he won 18.
Gary Player, a native of South Africa and one of golf’s greatest international golfers, invited Elder to compete in his country’s Open and PGA championships in 1971, after receiving permission from the Prime Minister. Blacks mingled with whites in the crowd at what became the first integrated golf tournament in South Africa since the adoption of apartheid in 1948.
Elder’s survivors include his second wife, Sharon, with whom he lived in Escondido.
He returned to Augusta National in 1997 to see Tiger Woods win the Masters with a record 12 strokes, becoming the first African-American golfer to win one of golf’s four major tournaments.