Lee Elder, the first African-American to play in the Masters, will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as honorary starters in 2021.
Elder, who endured a number of racist incidents throughout his PGA Tour career, made history in 1975 when he became the first black professional to compete at Augusta National.
The significance of that achievement is being recognised by the Masters this week, with Augusta chairman Fred Ridley announcing the launch of the Lee Elder Scholarships at nearby Paine College, aimed at creating more diversity in golf in the Augusta area.
“Mr Elder’s participation in the Honorary Starters Ceremony next April will recognise his courageous life and commemorate all he has done in his career to help eliminate barriers and inspire black men and women in the game of golf and beyond,” said Ridley in a statement.
“We hope that by having him serve as an Honorary Starter for the 2021 Masters that he can be joined at the first tee by family, friends and patrons for a moment that will be treasured worldwide.”
Ridley did confirm the occasion would be a one-off and described it as “a special moment in time”, while Elder declared he was “deeply honoured” by the invitation to kick off next year’s Masters tournament.
“The opportunity to earn an invitation to the Masters and stand at that first tee was my dream, and to have it come true in 1975 remains one of the greatest highlights of my career and life,” said Elder, now 86.
“So to be invited back to the first tee one more time to join Jack and Gary for next year’s Masters means the world to me. It also gives me great pride to know that my first Masters appearance continues to make a positive impact on others.
“Throughout my career, helping young men and women achieve their dreams through education has been a cause close to my heart. I am deeply honoured to share a connection with Paine College and these scholarships, which will provide life-changing opportunities for the deserving recipients.”
Ridley added: “We would like to thank our friends at Paine College, especially President Dr Cheryl Evans Jones, who immediately embraced the idea of honouring Lee Elder together.
“Through this partnership, we look forward to further cultivating our relationship with Paine College, helping the school create its first women’s golf program and celebrating Lee Elder’s distinguished legacy through these scholarships.”
Dr Jones said: “Augusta National Golf Club has been a supporter of Paine College for many years, and we are excited to build an even closer relationship through the game of golf.
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“The endowed Lee Elder Scholarships and creation of a women’s golf program are now a permanent example of the club’s investment in our institution and will open doors for our students for years to come.
“We appreciate receiving this support and recognition and look forward to working with Augusta National on initiatives that will positively impact everyone affiliated with Paine College.”
Elder was a four-time champion on the PGA Tour and played in the Masters six times between 1975 and 1981, recording a best finish of tied-17th in 1979.
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