At a dinner on Pebble Beach in 2019 to honor Lee Elder with the Bob Jones Award for Sportsmanship, presented by the United States Golf Association, commentator Jim Nantz told the golfer in a speech: “Your life will make sense for years and centuries to come. .”
Elder, whose death was at 87 announced on Monday through the PGA Tour, in 1975 he became the first black golfer to play in the Masters Tournament. He was honored at the tournament this year for his 1975 performance at the Augusta National Golf Club, which, as Richard Goldstein of The New York Times writes in Elder’s obituary, “was a landmark moment in breaking racial barriers on the professional golf tour.” . ”
Before the tournament kicked off, Elder wrote in an article for The Times: “All I think about this past year is being with Augusta, something I’ve wanted for a long time. I think I made it clear when I first came on the tour that I would like to qualify for the Masters. But I wanted to qualify on my own merit, I didn’t want anyone to give me a special invitation.”
As golf reporter Bill Pennington of The Times wrote in April from Augusta, Georgia: Elder’s role in the ceremonial opening of the tee shot was long overdue. After it was announced a year earlier, it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The significance of Elder’s appearance was not lost at a time when the country was undergoing another racial reckoning. Nor was the substance of his career, which will indeed have meaning for years and centuries to come.