Lee Elder, first Black man to play the Masters, dies at 87

Lee Elder — the first Black man to play the Masters — has died at the age of 87, the PGA said Monday.

Elder was a longtime D.C. resident.

No cause or details were immediately available, but the tour said it confirmed Elder’s death with his family.

A native Texan who developed his game during segregated times while caddying, Elder made history in 1975 at Augusta National, which had held an all-white tournament until he received an invitation after winning the Monsanto Open.

Elder missed the cut but forever stamped himself as a groundbreaking figure in a sport that had never been known for racial tolerance.

Twenty-two years later, Woods became the first Black golfer to capture the green jacket, launching one of the greatest careers in golf history.

This past April, in the wake of social justice protests that roiled the nation, the Masters honored Elder by having him join Jack Nickaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial opening tee shots.

Elder was in poor health and unable to actually take a swing, but he held up his driver proudly at the first tee, clearly moved by the gesture.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up