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Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play at Masters, dies at 87

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Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play at Masters, dies at 87
Lee Elder (2nd-L), who died Sunday, served as an honorary starter at the 2021 Masters on April 8 in Augusta, Ga. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Lee Elder, the first Black golfer in history to compete at a Masters Tournament, has died, the PGA Tour announced Monday. He was 87.

The PGA Tour said Elder died Sunday. No cause of death was provided. He is survived by his wife, Sharon.

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Elder made his PGA Tour debut in 1968. He broke the Masters color barrier in 1975. The Dallas native went on to win four PGA Tour tournaments.

Elder joined fellow golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter at the 2021 Masters in April in Augusta, Ga. He received a standing ovation from the crowd on the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club.

Elder, the first Black man to serve as an honorary starter for the tournament, did not hit an honorary tee shot due to his limited mobility. He was connected to an oxygen tank and was helped to a chair during the ceremony.

He also had diabetes and dealt with diabetic retinopathy, a complication that affects the eyes.

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"For me and my family, I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in," Elder told reporters April 8 at Augusta. "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."

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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. He also competed once at the British Open.

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

Augusta National Golf Club did not allow Black members until 1990, when businessman Ron Townsend broke the club's color barrier.

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Notable deaths of 2021

Betty White attends the media preview for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's Beastly Ball fundraiser at the Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles on June 11, 2015. The actress died December 31. She was 99 years old. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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