Lee Elder, a trailblazer in golf and sports who in 2019 became the first African American to receive the USGA’s Bob Jones Award, died on Nov. 28 at the age of 87.
A pioneering force in the game, Elder, who posted four victories on the PGA Tour, overcame personal tragedy and discrimination to become the first Black golfer to play in the Masters Tournament, in 1975. In 1979, he became the first Black player to compete for the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, becoming an inspiration for future generations, including nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods.
RELATED CONTENT: Renee Powell Remembers Elder's Kind and Gentle Spirit
In fact, Elder drove up from Florida to be in attendance at Augusta National Golf Club in April 1997 when Woods broke through for his first major title, telling him on the putting green on that historic Sunday to “go take care of business.”
"The world of golf has lost one of its most courageous figures in Lee Elder," said USGA CEO Mike Whan. "He was an inspiration to all of us, and his legacy will endure through a commitment to make the game welcoming to all."
Elder’s impact on the game was equally formidable off the course. In 1974 he established the Lee Elder Scholarship Fund, which offered financial assistance to low-income men and women for college education. He also served on the board for Goodwill Industries and was a longtime fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund.