Lee Elder, first Black golfer to play in Masters, dies at 87

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Lee Elder poses for a picture on the first tee at the Masters golf tournament
Lee Elder poses for a picture on the first tee at the Masters golf tournament


Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play in the Masters tournament, died on Sunday at the age of 87.

The PGA Tour announced Elder's death on Twitter, writing, "In 1975, he made history as the first African American to compete in the Masters Tournament."

Coming up during a time when golf was highly segregated, Elder went on to make 448 starts on the PGA Tour. His 1974 victory at the Monsanto Open earned him an invitation to the 1975 Masters, according to Golf Digest. Due to extreme racism, Elder was forced to rent two houses during his first Masters event so that detractors wouldn't know where he was.

Elder went on to play in five more Masters throughout his career.

Elder had been in poor health recently, an ESPN report noted, appearing at the opening of the Masters in April with oxygen tubes in his nose.

In recognition of his groundbreaking career, Elder was invited to be an Honorary Starter along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at the 2021 Masters. Though he was unable to hit the opening shot, Elder received resounding applause, according to Golf Digest.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Lee Elder," Masters chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement to ESPN. "Lee was an inspiration to so many young men and women of color not only through his play, but also through his commitment to education and community. Lee will always be a part of the history of the Masters Tournament. His presence will be sorely missed, but his legacy will continue to be celebrated."

Fellow professional golf veteran Jack Nicklaus commemorated Elder on Twitter, remembering him as a "pioneer in so many ways."