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On Thursday (April 8), Lee Elder was honored by Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley among a cadre of patrons like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player on the first tee at the Honorary Starters Ceremony at The Masters.
Elder, the first Black man to play in the major golf tournament back in 1975, was designated as an honorary starter but didn’t participate in swinging a golf club. He received a standing ovation from everyone in attendance, including past Masters champs Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
During the 2020 Masters, Ridley announced that Elder would be honored during this year’s tournament, which kicked off on Thursday.
Elder played in six Masters, and his highest finish was 17th, but he did win four times on the PGA Tour career and eight times on the PGA Tour Champions. Beyond trophies, though, Elder paved the way for eventual Masters champs like Tiger Woods in breaking the color barrier.
“Well, I certainly want to say thank you so very much for this great opportunity,” Elder said during the ceremony, according to CBS Sports. “For me and my family, I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in. It is certainly something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I have loved coming to Augusta National and playing here the times that I have played here with many of my friends that are members here, and at the request and invitation of Buzzy Johnson, who has also had me.”
He continued: “But to me, my heart is very soft this morning. Not heavy, soft, soft because of the wonderful things that I have encountered since arriving here on Monday and being able to see some of the great friends that I have made over the past years, especially like these two gentlemen that are here. We have competed against each other, and we have certainly enjoyed a lot of pleasant moments. I just want to say thank you so very much to have me here. It’s a great honor, and I cherish it very much, and I will always cherish it, and I want to thank the chairman for extending me this great privilege.”