Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play at The Masters back in 1975, died at the age of 87 on Monday.
Because of Elder, other Black golfers could participate in some of the world’s biggest golf tournaments. Five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods was able to win those tournaments because of Elder, for example.
Golfers and athletes from other sports showed respect to Elder after the news broke of his death on Monday. Jack Nicklaus, who won the Masters that year in 1975, honored Elder on Twitter:
Lee Elder was a pioneer in so many ways. Yes, he was the first black golfer to play in @TheMasters, but that simply underlined the hard work Lee put in to further the cause of everyone who has a dream to play on the @PGATOUR and thinks there were too many barriers before them.
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 29, 2021
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At the 2021 Masters, Elder joined Nicklaus and Gary Player as honorary starters at the ceremonial first tee. It was the first time Elder participated in this annual tradition. Player also honored Elder on Twitter.
I would like to send my deepest sympathies to Lee Elder’s wife and family at this difficult time. Lee was truly a titan in the world of golf and a great contributor to society. He overcame a tremendous number of obstacles throughout his life, yet always remained gracious. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/AJZZETv1XO
— GARY PLAYER (@garyplayer) November 29, 2021
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Elder was a four-time PGA Tour winner after he turned professional in 1959. He won his first tour event in 1974 at the Monsanto Open, which is how he was able to qualify for the 1975 Masters. However, he competed in his first major tournament in 1966 at the U.S. Open. His last major tournament was in 1984 at the PGA Championship, and he didn’t make the cut. He officially retired in 2005, but his last victory was in 1988 on the Senior Tour.
Harold Varner III, currently on the PGA Tour, posted a video on Monday explaining how significant Elder was to his golf career:
Look out for the ones coming behind you. Lee Elder was an incredible contribution to the game and made history because of his talent, not just because he was African-American. I’m fortunate to have had the chance to learn from him. My prayers to the Elder family at this time. pic.twitter.com/FBPtzdmkro
— Harold Varner III (@HV3_Golf) November 29, 2021
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Elder impacted athletes from other sports as well. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, who was the first openly gay tennis player, honored Elder on Twitter. NBA star Steph Curry also wrote a lengthy post expressing his gratitude to the late Elder.
In 1975, Lee Elder became the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters Tournament.
He broke other color barriers as well.
A trailblazer, an athlete, and a true gentleman.
May he Rest In Peace as his legacy lives on. https://t.co/jScCHdgyQp
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) November 29, 2021
Mr. Lee Elder… one of my heroes… words don’t do justice to the impact you had on golf and the Black community. All I can say right now is thank you for blazing the trail. It’s on us to stay the course and keep going in your honor. Rest easy legend 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/la0ccbBp5N
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) November 29, 2021
Tiger Woods has yet to post on social media about Elder’s passing, but since Woods won his first Masters in 1997, he has expressed how much of a hero Elder has been to him.
Tiger Woods, after winning his first Masters:
“Lee Elder meant a lot to me because he was the first. He was the one that I looked up to. And because of what he did, I was able to play here, which was my dream.”
A golf hero. He’ll be missed.
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) November 29, 2021