In 1975, professional golfer Lee Elder faced death threats and was berated with racial slurs as he became the first Black man to play in the Masters. Forty-six years later, he is being honored along two of the greatest golfers to ever player the sport, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
As is customary at the Masters Tournament, two special guests hit ceremonial tee shots. This year, Augusta National invited Player and Nicklaus to do the honors. Given the racial reckoning that the nation has faced in the last year, the two all-time greats said that they would not participate in the event if Elder was not honored during the ceremony. With all that he endured in 1975, Elder accepted the offer and paved the way for the moment that many witnessed on Wednesday.
Elder did not hit a single shot on Wednesday, but he certainly stole the show. Player, Nicklaus, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and several other stars showered Elder with adulation as he received a standing ovation.
"Well, I certainly want to say thank you so very much for this great opportunity," he said.
"For me and my family, I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in. It is certainly something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I have loved coming to Augusta National and playing here the times that I have played here with many of my friends that are members here, and at the request and invitation of Buzzy Johnson, who has also had me."
In addition to being honored by Augusta National, Elder also received an honorary doctorate degree from Paine College. Augusta National has also pledged to fund two scholarships in his name. The scholarships will benefit two players on the college's golf team.
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