AUGUSTA, Ga. – With the sun rising over his shoulders, Lee Elder was introduced to a crowd of several hundred on the first tee of the Masters tournament on Thursday morning. Six years ago, at roughly the same venue at Augusta National, Elder served as the first black man to play in the tournament.
“I was just so nervous,” Elder said, recalling the opening moments of his historic 1975 appearance.
But on Thursday morning, Elder was relaxed and smiling, becoming the first black player to join golf giants Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in a decade-old Masters tradition: an honorary debut celebration that preceded the second Masters Used to strike formal shots.
The 86-year-old, Elder, was spotted on the first tee by about 20 family members, friends and black PGA golf professionals wearing formal attire and aligning in regal row. Recent issues with his mobility will prevent the Elder from hitting a shot on Thursday, but he has previously been congratulated by Augusta National Golf Club President Fred S. Ridley.
Ridley said, “Today Lee Elder will inspire us and create history once again – not with a drive, but with his presence, strength and character.”
Using a golf vernacular reserved for a player who earned the right to the first tee, by performing a lead, Ridley said, “Lee, it’s my privilege to say that you have the honor.”
The Elder pushed on the armrest of his chair to get up, but they stood until the player tried to move forward. Turning to the surrounding congregation, Elder shook his head with a wave of his left hand, then raised the driver in his right hand as if to respond to the ovation he had endured for 40 seconds. The elder with a grin, then returned to his seat.
The 85th Masters has had an occasionally tense atmosphere this week as players and tournament officials have been asked about the new, restrictive Georgia election law in the state. While Elder was invited to participate in the 1975 tournament – many years later he and other black players were eligible to play – Augusta National Did not accept its first black member Until 1990, and its first female until 2012.
The role of the Elder at the first T ceremony was long seen as overdue, as it was announced last year and then delayed due to an epidemic of coronavirus virus. The symbol of his presence was not lost at a time when the country is undergoing racial justice. But on Thursday, for a long time, attention was paid to covering the Elder in a tribute.
At a press conference immediately after the first tee ceremony, Player recalled that in 1969 he invited Elder Play in your country south africa.
“It was quite sad to think that in those days, with South Africa’s secession policy, that I had to go to our president and get Lee Elder permission to come and play in our PGA,” the player said, “I am a traitor. Was called. “
The player recalled that Elder was welcomed with a loud ovation.
“We then moved on to other places,” the player said. “You can imagine at that time in history how encouraging it was to see a young Black Boy playing this champion.”
Alder recalled that he won 21 of 23 events in 1966 on a tour of the United Golf Association, a series of tournaments for African-American golfers when he was regularly excluded from other top professional golf events. The following year, he bid to join the PGA Tour – he was required to provide a copy of the bank statement balance of $ 6,500 – and by 1969 won himself a playoff to win the prestigious Firstone Open in Nickels’ native state of Ohio. found in.
As Elder told the story on Thursday, Nickelz, who was seated next to him on the stage of the news conference, said, “I robbed you, don’t I?”
The Elder said to Nicholas, “You did it.”
Nicklaus reported that he made three puts over 35 feet to keep the playoffs alive. In the end, Niklas prevailed to win the tournament.
“He got lucky,” said Elder, who unsuccessfully suppressed a sniper, even a giggle.
It was an awesome day.
“It was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever seen or been involved in,” he said of the first tee ceremony on Thursday.
To adjust his glasses, Elder said: “My heart is very soft this morning, not heavy soft, but soft because of the amazing things I’ve encountered. It’s a great honor and I cherish it so much . “