Lee Elder, the first Black man to play at the Masters, will be honored by Augusta National Golf Club with scholarships in his name, chairman Fred Ridley announced Monday.
Ridley announced the creation of the Lee Elder Scholarships at Paine College. Elder was also invited to be an honorary starter for the 2021 Masters. Paine College is a historically Black college and university located in Augusta, Ga., where the golf major is held annually.
“We would like to thank our friends at Paine College, especially President Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones, who immediately embraced the idea of honoring Lee Elder together,” Ridley said. “Through this partnership, we look forward to further cultivating our relationship with Paine College, helping the school create its first women’s golf program and celebrating Lee Elder’s distinguished legacy through these scholarships.”
Lee Elder during the 1978 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 1978 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)
Additionally, Augusta National will also help create a women’s golf program at Paine College.
Elder was invited to be an honorary starter alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
“The opportunity to earn an invitation to the Masters and stand at that first tee was my dream, and to have it come true in 1975 remains one of the greatest highlights of my career and life,” Elder said. “So to be invited back to the first tee one more time to join Jack and Gary for next year’s Masters means the world to me.
“It also gives me great pride to know that my first Masters appearance continues to make a positive impact on others. Throughout my career, helping young men and women achieve their dreams through education has been a cause close to my heart. I am deeply honored to share a connection with Paine College and these scholarships, which will provide life-changing opportunities for the deserving recipients.”
Elder became the first Black man to play the Masters in 1975. He was invited after winning the 1974 Monsanto Open but he missed the cut at the major. According to BBC, up until then, African Americans were seen only at Augusta National as caddies or staff members.
Elder told the British broadcaster in 2015 he received intimidating letters and death threats warning him that he would never make it to the first tee box. Nonetheless, he said he received applause when making his rounds on the course.
“Every green I walked up on, the applause was just tremendous. I mean every one of them people shouted, ‘Go Lee! Good luck, Lee!’” he said.
His best finish at the Masters was tied for 17th in 1979. Tiger Woods would become the first African American to win the event in 1997.