Masters’ Color Barrier Lee Elder Dies Aged 87

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Lee Elder, the pioneering golfer who broke several of the sport’s color barriers, has died at the age of 87.

The PGA Tour confirmed Elder’s death on Monday. The most defining moment of his career came in 1975 when he became the first black golfer to play at the Masters, a tournament many saw as an embodiment of the racism and privilege that was part of the sport in America at the ‘era. This year, his contribution to the Masters was recognized when he joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the tournament’s honorary starter.

In 2015, Elder told CNN that playing the Masters for the first time was intimidating, especially after receiving death threats before the tournament. One of them warned him that “he should check behind every tree” as he finished his round.

“It was scary. You’re trying to eliminate the possibility of anything happening, ”he said. “This was partly the reason for renting two houses during the Master’s week. The logic behind this was the fact that we didn’t want people to know where I was staying. “

Elder faced other problems when he established himself as a golfer in the 1960s and 1970s. At a tournament he was forced to change in the parking lot after being refused entry. at the clubhouse. At another, a spectator threw his ball into the rough.

Elder first encountered golf while working as a caddy, but did not play an 18-hole round until he was 16. Early in his career, he made money bumping into white golfers who couldn’t believe a black player had the skills to compete. “I once shot 38 while playing on one leg. Another time, I shot 41 while playing on my knees, ”he later recalls. He honed his skills during his military service and joined the United Golf Association, a tour for black golfers, upon his release. He went on to win four tournaments on the PGA Tour, but achieving it was a battle in itself: the PGA billed itself as a “only Caucasian” organization until 1961.

Elder quickly proved to be good enough to gain recognition outside of the United States, and in 1979 he became the first black player to represent the United States at the Ryder Cup.


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