Lee Elder, first African-American Masters player, passes away at 87
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Lee Elder, first African-American Masters player, passes away at 87

Lee Elder, the first African-American to compete in the Masters in 1975, has passed away at the age of 87.

Elder won four times on the PGA Tour, and it was his first career win in the 1974 Monsanto Open -- which he won in a playoff against Peter Oosterhuis -- that changed the history of the game. Augusta National had adopted a criteria that all PGA Tour winners would be invited to the Masters Tournament in 1975, meaning Elder was invited to the first major of the year.

Elder went on to play in five more Masters and 34 total major championships, netting seven top-25 finishes. His best major finish was a tie for 11th place at both the 1974 PGA Championship and the 1979 U.S. Open.

When Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters, he underscored Elder's importance to his journey.

"I wasn't the pioneer. Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder and Teddy Rhodes paved the way," Woods said at the time. "I was thinking about them and what they've done for me as I was coming up the 18th fairway. I said a little prayer and a thanks to those guys. They are the ones who did it for me."

In April 2021, Elder became an honorary starter at the Masters Tournament, sitting on the first tee at the start of the event alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Elder was not well enough to hit a tee shot, but the moment and resulting ovation were an emotional tribute to the legendary golfer.


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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

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