Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, addressed media on Monday morning to announce that Lee Elder, the first Black man to compete in the Masters Tournament when he teed it up in 1975, will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player on the first tee of the 2021 Masters as an honorary starter.
In addition to the announcement that Elder would take his place among Masters legends next year came news of the creation of a Lee Elder Scholarship. Two scholarships in Elder’s name will be awarded annually to a player who competes on the men’s golf team at Paine College, a Historically Black College and University located in Augusta, and one to a player on the women’s team.
That there currently is no women’s team was no hurdle for Augusta. Ridley also announced that the club would fully fund the creation of one.
“We would like to thank our friends at Paine College, especially President Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones, who immediately embraced the idea of honoring Lee Elder together,” Ridley continued. “Through this partnership, we look forward to further cultivating our relationship with Paine College, helping the school create its first women’s golf program and celebrating Lee Elder’s distinguished legacy through these scholarships.”
After Elder’s first Masters start in 1975, he qualified for five consecutive years, from 1977-81. His best finish came in 1979, when he tied for 17th.
“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.”