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Golf icon Lee Elder joins Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player as Masters starter

Lee Elder, the first Black man to play in the Masters, is honored as Gary Player (C) and Jack Nicklaus (R) applaud, before hitting honorary tee shots Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Lee Elder, the first Black man to play in the Masters, is honored as Gary Player (C) and Jack Nicklaus (R) applaud, before hitting honorary tee shots Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 8 (UPI) -- Lee Elder, who became the first Black Masters participant in 1975, made more history Thursday when he joined golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter at the 2021 edition of the major tournament.

He received a standing ovation from the crowd on the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

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Elder is the first Black man to serve as an honorary starter for the tournament. Nicklaus and Player have participated in the tradition since 2010 and 2012, respectively. Fellow Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer also served as an honorary starter from 2007 until his death in 2016.

"Lee Elder was the first Black man to play in a Masters, and in doing so he blazed a trail that will inspire the game of golf and future generations of players," Masters chairman Fred Ridley said on the CBS broadcast.

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Elder, who has limited mobility due to health issues, did not hit an honorary tee shot with Nicklaus and Player. He stood up from his chair, raised his driver and waved to the crowd when Ridley introduced him as a starter.

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"Today Lee Elder will inspire us and make history once more, not with a drive, but with his presence, strength and character," Ridley said.

Elder played in six Masters Tournaments. He tied for 17th at the 1979 Masters, his best finish at the major. He had 14 appearances at the U.S. Open and 13 appearances at the PGA Championship.

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Elder competed just once in the British Open. He had four PGA Tour victories.

Charlie Sifford became the first Black player on the PGA Tour in 1961. Pete Brown became the first Black player to win a PGA Tour event at the 1964 Waco Turner Open.

In 1990, businessman Ron Townsend became first Black member of Augusta National Golf Club, which previously did not allow Black members.

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In 2012, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and investor and philanthropist Darla Moore became the first female members at Augusta.

Tiger Woods became the first Black player to win a major title at the 1997 Masters.

The honorary starter tradition started in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod. Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ken Venturi also have served as honorary starters.

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The 2021 Masters runs Thursday to Sunday and airs on ESPN and CBS.

Moments from the 2021 Masters Tournament

Last year's Masters champion, Dustin Johnson (L), bumps fists with 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan after the final round of the 2021 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday. Matsuyama won his first major at10 under par. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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