Photos: Lee Elder returns to the Masters at Augusta National, this time as an honorary starter

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AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 08: Honorary Starter Lee Elder of the United States (L), waves to the patrons as he is introduced and honorary starter and Masters champion Gary Player of South Africa and honorary starter and Masters champion Jack Nicklaus applaud from the first tee during the opening ceremony prior to the start of the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 08, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters, waves to patrons on the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday alongside former champions and fellow honorary starters Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

The 2021 Masters is being played less than five months from the previous major held in November and the course is playing tougher than it did last time — at least in the early going

The 85th Masters started with two honorary tee shots and one former player who only had to raise his driver to make it memorable.

Lee Elder was invited to take part in the ceremonial start. The 86-year-old Elder was the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters in 1975. Augusta National announced in November he would be joining six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus and three-time champion Gary Player.

Honorary starter Lee Elder waves as he arrives to the opening ceremony during the first round.
Lee Elder, 86, acknowledges applause as he arrives at the first tee on Thursday. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Elder’s health wouldn’t allow him to take a swing. Instead, he raised his driver on a cool morning that was warmed by enormous applause from spectators that lined both sides of the tee box.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley said Elder has blazed a trail that inspired golf and future generations with a message that the game belongs to everyone.

Among those on the tee were Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, wearing their green jackets as past champions, and Cameron Champ, one of four players of Black heritage on the PGA Tour.

Gary Player playfully kisses the hand of Bubba Watson. At left, Jack Nicklaus greets Phil Mickelson.
Honorary starter Gary Player, center, playfully kisses the hand of Bubba Watson before teeing off. At left, Jack Nicklaus greets Phil Mickelson. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Lee Elder, left, greets Jack Nicklaus on the first tee.
Honorary starters Lee Elder and Jack Nicklaus meet on the first tee before the first round of the Masters. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)
The names of the honorary starters are posted prior to the start of Round 1.
The names of the honorary starters are posted prior to the start of Round 1. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Gary Player doffs his cap as Jack Nicklaus applauds
Gary Player doffs his cap as Jack Nicklaus applauds at the first tee. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)
Jack Nicklaus hits his tee shot.
Honorary starter Jack Nicklaus hits his tee shot on the first hole at Augusta National Golf Club. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Gary Player follows through on the first tee.
Honorary starter and former Masters champion Gary Player of South Africa plays his tee shot on the first hole. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)
Golfers walk from the tee area after starting their round
Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford walk to the first fairway after teeing off during the first round of the Masters. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to his tee shot on the third hole
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts as his tee shot on the third hole veers to the right. (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)
Viktor Hovland of Norway hits an iron shot on the first hole
Viktor Hovland of Norway hits an iron shot on the first hole Thursday during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Joaquin Niemann partially hidden by a bank of azaelas on the 10th hole.
Joaquin Niemann of Chile looks for a ball on the 10th hole during the first round of the Masters. (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)
Ian Woosnam watches his shot
Ian Woosnam of Wales plays a shot on the second hole during the first round of the Masters. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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