Gary Player wants old friend as 2020 Masters honorary starter

Gary Player Swing

Three-time Masters champion Gary Player is eager to see his old friend Lee Elder feature as the honorary start at the 2020 Masters tournament.

Reported by Alan Shipnuck of Golf.com, Player said: "I’m sure he’ll hit it farther than Arnold did in his last few years."

86-year-old Elder has a long history with Gary Player, with Elder accepting a personal invitation from the South African to participate in the 1971 South African PGA Championship in Johannesburg. The event marked the first integrated tournament in the country’s history throughout its struggles with apartheid.

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In 1975, Elder became the first African American to play in the Masters and reported receiving substantial amounts of hate mail in the weeks leading up to the tournament. In 1979 he also became the first African American to qualify for play in the Ryder Cup.

The move to make Elder an honorary member would mark a significant milestone in the tournament’s history as it would be the first time an African American has featured as the honorary starter at the event.

Throughout his career, four-time PGA Tour winner Elder has been a major advocate of social justice. He set up the Lee Elder Scholarship Fund in 1974, developed to offer monetary aid to low-income young men and women seeking money for college.

In 1990, Elder spoke out against country clubs that still excluded African Americans from membership. Elder has actively promoted Summer Youth Golf Development Programs, raised money for the United Negro College Fund, and served on the advisory boards of Goodwill Industries.

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The rescheduled 2020 Masters will take place on November 9-15 without patrons or guests in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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