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Lee Elder, Who Broke a Golf Color Barrier, Dies at 87


His shot off the first tee was straight down the middle, but he ended up far back in the field in the first two rounds, shooting 74 and 78, and missed the cut to continue to play through the weekend by four strokes. He received a fine reception from the galleries, though.

“The display from the employees of Augusta National was especially moving,” Elder told Golf Digest in 2019. “Most of the staff was Black, and on Friday, they left their duties to line the 18th fairway as I walked toward the green. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Of all the acknowledgments of what I had accomplished by getting there, this one meant the most.”

Elder played in the Masters six times, his top finish a tie for 17th place in 1979. He won four PGA Tour events and finished second 10 times, playing regularly through 1989 and earning $1.02 million in purses. He also played for the U.S. team in the 1979 Ryder Cup. He joined the PGA Senior Tour, now the Champions Tour, in 1984 and won eight times, earning more than $1.6 million. He won four tournaments overseas.

Elder and his first wife, Rose Harper, created a foundation in 1974 to provide college scholarships for members of families with limited incomes. He promoted summer youth golf development programs and raised funds for the United Negro College Fund.

In 2019, Elder received the United States Golf Association’s highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, named for the co-founder of the Masters and presented for outstanding sportsmanship.

Robert Lee Elder was born on July 14, 1934, in Dallas, one of 10 children. His father, Charles, a coal truck driver, was killed during Army service in Germany in World War II when Lee was 9. His mother, Almeta, died three months later.


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