Former Premier of Bermuda Dr. The Hon. Ewart Brown on the passing of golfing legend Mr. Lee Elder.
“ Lee Elder was a friend. From the time he came to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in 2007, he always remembered the people of Bermuda in our conversations.
ESPN quotes “ He was much larger than the first Black golfer to play in the Masters. We join his family in celebrating his memory.”
Lee Elder, who broke down racial barriers as the first Black golfer to play in the Masters and paved the way for Tiger Woods and others to follow, has died at the age of 87.
The PGA Tour announced Elder’s death Monday. No cause or details were immediately available, but the tour said it confirmed Elder’s death with his family.
He had been in poor health and wore an oxygen tube beneath his nose when he appeared at the opening of the Masters in April. The tour said he died early Sunday in Escondido, California.
“Lee was a good player, but most important, a good man who was very well respected by countless people,” Jack Nicklaus wrote on his Twitter account. “The game of golf lost a hero in Lee Elder.”
A native Texan who developed his game during segregated times while caddying, Elder made history in 1975 at Augusta National, which had been an all-white tournament until he received an invitation after winning the Monsanto Open the previous year.
Elder missed the cut at his first Masters but 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 Nicklaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial opening tee shots.
Elder was in poor health and unable to take a swing, but he held up his driver proudly at the first tee, clearly moved by the moment.
“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.
Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, called Elder “a true pioneer in the game of golf.”
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