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Sat, 07.14.1934

Lee Elder, Golfer born

Lee Elder

*Lee Elder was born on this date in 1934. He was a Black golfer.

From Dallas, TX as a young man, he taught himself to play golf by sneaking onto all-white courses at night. He never actually played a round until he was sixteen. By his late teens, he was a golf hustler, often posing as a caddie. He led that uneasy existence until 1959, when he was drafted into the Army. Elder spent part of his military time playing golf with his commanding officer at Fort Lewis in Washington State. After being discharged in 1961, he joined the all-Black United Golf Association tour.  He dominated the tour, winning five UGA national championships. In one stretch, Elder won 21 of 23 tournaments.

In November 1967, Elder became one of the first Black golfers on the PGA tour. The following year, he raised eyebrows by tying Frank Beard and Jack Nicklaus for the lead in the American Golf Classic. Beard was out after bogeying the first extra hole, but Elder and Nicklaus dueled for the next four holes.  Nicklaus finally won with a birdie on the fifth after Elder missed a long birdie putt.  Gary Player invited Elder to participate in the 1971 South African PGA Tournament, the first integrated tournament in that country's history.

He accepted after insisting on some conditions: That the gallery is integrated and that he and his wife would be allowed to stay at whatever hotel they chose and free to go wherever they wanted.  His first PGA victory came in the Monsanto Open (1974), automatically winning an invitation to the 1975 Masters. Elder was the first Black player to be invited to the Master's Tournament. Elder also won the Houston Open (1976) and played in the 1977 Masters. In 1979, Elder became the first Black golfer to play for the Ryder Cup team.

Elder and his wife set up the Lee Elder Scholarship Fund in 1974. This fund was developed to offer monetary aid to low-income young men and women seeking money for college. In 1986 he protested to the PGA governors for allowing four American golfers to play in a tournament in Sun City, Bophuthatswana, a small area set up by the apartheid regime of South Africa that surrounds it. In 1990, Elder spoke against country clubs that still excluded Blacks from membership. Elder has actively promoted Summer Youth Golf Development Programs, raised money for the Negro College Fund, and served on the advisory boards of Goodwill Industries.

Lee Elder, the pioneering golfer who broke several of the sport’s color barriers, died on November 29, 2021, at 87.

To become a Professional Athlete.


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