AUGUSTA, Ga (AP) – Applause started as Lee Elder’s golf cart started heading for the first tee It only got stronger when he came in and slowly headed for his seat

Elder – the first black man to play the Masters – got up from his chair, hoisted his driver up to the sky for a moment, then nodded, smiled, and greeted the hundreds of people who turned up. are gathered around the first tee to see the story unfold He joined Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as an honorary Masters starter on Thursday morning, the first time he was part of the ceremony

“For me and my family, I think it was one of the most moving experiences I have ever witnessed or been involved in,” Elder said

The player and Nicklaus each took a swing, as tradition has it, hitting records on the first fairway This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Player’s Masters’ first victory, the first for an international player, and the 35th anniversary of Nicklaus’ sixth and final victory

Elder didn’t play, although as it did in 1975 his presence was simply the far bigger story.He became the 10th former player to be part of the honorary departure ceremony and, at fittingly, the first black man to join this list

“I think having Lee there was the right thing to do, the right thing to do,” Nicklaus said

Augusta National – aware of the ongoing national conversation about racial injustice – announced last year that she would honor Elder with two scholarships in her name at Paine College, a historically black institution The scholarships will be awarded to a male player and one female player Augusta National’s decision led to the creation of a female school golf team, with the club covering these start-up costs

The player has long known Elder’s history and, at times, his difficulties He invited Elder to play in South Africa, the player’s homeland, in 1969

“It’s pretty sad to think that at that time, with South Africa’s segregation policy, I had to go see my president and get permission for Lee Elder to come and play in our PGA,” said Player “Quite sad”

They did it, and Elder’s story continued to evolve from there He became the first black man to play for the US in the Ryder Cup in 1979, and the doors slowly – very slowly – continued to open up in the game Augusta National made Ron Townsend his first black member in 1990, seven years before a skinny kid named Tiger Woods won the first of his five Masters titles

One senior – who grew up in Dallas and came into the game as a caddy, not as a player, since that was essentially the only avenue Black had in the game at the time – a paved the way He was back at Augusta National for Woods’ first win in 1997 The first black man to play at the Masters was just sure to see the first black man win the tournament

“I have always been amazed that the Presidents of the United States bestow these various awards on athletes for their athletic prowess, and here is a man who changed his life and changed and put his word in the wheel of the world. segregation in South Africa and never received the awards he really deserved, “Player said

The Masters sought to correct one of those award omissions this year, bringing Elder back for the honorary start. Former Masters champions Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, both dressed in their green jackets, made sure to be there for the ceremony, standing at the back of the tee box So was Cameron Champ, one of four Black Legacy players on the PGA Tour

“It’s a great honor, and I treasure it very much, and I will treasure it always,” Elder said

An elder knew Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier He was close to Hank Aaron, who suffered racist threats throughout his career, especially as he neared what was the Babe Ruth home run record Aaron broke this record on April 8, 1974; 12 days later, Elder won what was then called the Monsanto Open to qualify for the Masters the following year.

An elder sat in Aaron’s office with the Home Run King a few months ago, shortly before Aaron died, sharing memories

“We talked about a lot of things about our sports, our particular sport and the implication that we felt that we could help other black youth who were coming up behind us,” Elder said. “And I really hope the things I have done have inspired a lot of young black players and they will continue with that”

Lee Elder

World News – USA – With a wave and a smile, Lee Elder helps open the Masters