PGA Tour pioneer Lee Elder was the first black player to participate in the Masters at the age of 87.
The tour confirmed his death on Monday morning.
Elder won the PGA Tour Championship four times and made a groundbreaking appearance on the Augusta National Team in 1975. In April of this year, he celebrated with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at the Masters, when he was named an honorary starter.
“My heart was very soft this morning, not heavy soft, but soft because of the wonderful things I encountered after I arrived here on Monday. I can see some of the good friends I have made in the past few years, especially these two gentlemen. Here,” Elder said during Nicklaus and Pryor.
“We competed with each other and of course we enjoyed a lot of pleasant moments. I just want to say thank you very much for having me here. This is a great honor, I cherish it very much, and I will cherish it forever. I want to thank the chairman for giving me This great privilege.”
Elder continued to participate in 5 Masters and 34 Grand Slam tournaments, and achieved 7 top 25 results. He was tied for 11th in both the 1974 PGA Championship and the 1979 U.S. Open.
Elder’s tournament victories include the 1974 Monsanto Open (which led him to the 1975 Masters), the 1976 Houston Open, the 1978 Greater Milwaukee Open, and the 1978 American Express Westchester Classic .
When Tiger Woods became the first black player to win the Masters in 1997, he recognized the foundation laid by Elder and Charlie Seaford (the first black golfer to participate in the PGA Tour).
“I’m not a pioneer. Charlie Seaford, Lee Elder and Teddy Rhodes paved the way,” Woods said at the time. “When I came to the 18th fairway, I was thinking about them and what they did for me. I did some prayers and thanked those people. They did it for me.”
Regardless of race, Elder’s story is inspiring because he overcame his personal tragedy long before he qualified for the PGA Tour through qualifying school in 1968.
Elder was born in Dallas in 1934 and lost his parents before the age of 10. His father died in Germany in World War II, and his mother died three months later.