Augusta National Golf Club is honoring Lee Elder, 45 years after he became the first Black golfer to take part in the Masters Tournament.
Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National, announced Monday the establishment of a pair of scholarships in Elder’s name and also said the retired golfer has been invited to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter for the 2021 Masters.
The Lee Elder Scholarships will be endowed at Paine College, a Historically Black College and University in Augusta. The scholarships will be given each year to one golfer on the school’s men’s golf team and one on the women’s team.
The women’s golf team is being formed with the assistance of the club.
“Augusta National Golf Club has been a supporter of Paine College for many years, and we are excited to build an even closer relationship through the game of golf,” said Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones, the college president, in a statement. “The endowed Lee Elder Scholarships and creation of a women’s golf program are now a permanent example of the Club’s investment in our institution and will open doors for our students for years to come.”
Elder, now 86, became the first Black golfer at the Masters in 1975. He had four career wins on the PGA Tour and qualified to play in Augusta for five straight years, from 1977-81. He tied for 17th place in 1979, marking his best finish.
Between them, Nicklaus and Player won nine green jackets at the Masters and had five second-place finishes. Elder said it was an honor to be asked to join the two legends as an honorary starter.
“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,” Elder said. “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.”
Play begins at this year’s Masters on Thursday. It was moved from its traditional date in April to November because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2021 Masters is scheduled for April 8-11.