AUGUSTA, Ga. — With the sun rising over his shoulders, Lee Elder was introduced to a crowd of several hundred on the first tee of the Masters Tournament on Thursday morning. Forty-six years earlier, on roughly the same spot at Augusta National, Elder had teed off as the first Black man to play in the tournament.
“I was just so nervous,” Elder said, recalling the opening moments of his historic 1975 appearance.
But on Thursday morning, Elder was at ease and smiling, joining the golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the first Black player included in a decades-long Masters tradition: a celebration of honorary starters who strike the first ceremonial shots of another Masters.
Elder, 86, was seated in a white patio chair on the first tee next to about 20 family members, friends and Black P.G.A. golf professionals dressed in formal attire and aligned in a regal row. Recent issues with his mobility would prevent Elder from striking a shot on Thursday but he was greeted first by the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, Fred S. Ridley.
“Today Lee Elder will inspire us and make history once again — not with a drive, but with his presence, strength and character,” Ridley said.