Lee Elder to be an honorary starter at 2021 Masters

Lee Elder, the first African American to play in the event, has been handed a “special invitation” to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter for the 2021 Masters.

Lee Elder, the first African American to play in the Masters in 1975, will be a one-off honorary starter at next year's event at Augusta National. Picture: Frank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Getty Images
Lee Elder, the first African American to play in the Masters in 1975, will be a one-off honorary starter at next year's event at Augusta National. Picture: Frank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Getty Images

As part of what Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley described as a “call to action”, a new scholarship has also been established in Elder’s name at Paine College, a historically black college, in Atlanta.

In addition, Augusta National is to fund the creation of a new women’s golf programme at Paine College, a step that follows the introduction of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last year.

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“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 Ridley.

This week’s event is being played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ridley added: “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, a four-time PGA Tour winner, first competed in the Masters in 1975 and made six appearances in total in the event, his best finish being a tie for 17th in 1979.

“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 Elder.

“So 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.

“It also gives me great pride to know that my first Masters appearance continues to make a positive impact on others.

Throughout my career, helping young men and women achieve their dreams through education has been a cause close to my heart.

“I am deeply honoured to share a connection with Paine College and these scholarships, which will provide life-changing opportunities for the deserving recipients.”

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