Augusta National Golf Club has announced that Lee Elder will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter at The Masters in April.
Elder, the first Black man to compete in the Masters Tournament 45 years ago, has been invited by the club to join Nicklaus and Player in getting the 85th edition of the tournament underway. It is scheduled to begin on April 8, 2021.
“Mr. Elder’s participation in the Honorary Starters Ceremony next April will recognise his courageous life and commemorate all he has done in his career to help eliminate barriers and inspire black men and women in the game of golf and beyond,” said Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley.
“We hope that by having him serve as an Honorary Starter for the 2021 Masters that he can be joined at the first tee by family, friends and patrons for a moment that will be treasured worldwide.”
Elder first competed in the Masters in 1975 and would later qualify for the Tournament for five consecutive years, 1977 through 1981. His best finish came in 1979, when he tied for 17th place.
“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,” said the 86-year-old. “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."
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Augusta National has also announced the creation of the Lee Elder Scholarships at Paine College, a historically black college and university located in Augusta. Two scholarships will be awarded annually, one each to a student athlete who competes on the men’s and women’s golf team.
As part of this effort, Augusta National also will fund the creation of a women’s golf program at Paine College. Soon, the Lee Elder Scholarships will help foster opportunities for black men and women alike as they pursue their dreams on and off the course.
“It gives me great pride to know that my first Masters appearance continues to make a positive impact on others," added Elder. "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."
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.”