Lee Elder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Lee Elder
Personal information
Full nameRobert Lee Elder
Born(1934-07-14) July 14, 1934 (age 78)
Dallas, Texas
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight175 lb (79 kg; 12.5 st)
Nationality United States
ResidencePompano Beach, Florida
Career
Turned professional1959
Retired2005
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Champions Tour
Professional wins14
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour4
Champions Tour8
Other2
Best results in Major Championships
Masters TournamentT17: 1979
U.S. OpenT11: 1979
The Open ChampionshipT36: 1979
PGA ChampionshipT11: 1974
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Lee Elder
Personal information
Full nameRobert Lee Elder
Born(1934-07-14) July 14, 1934 (age 78)
Dallas, Texas
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight175 lb (79 kg; 12.5 st)
Nationality United States
ResidencePompano Beach, Florida
Career
Turned professional1959
Retired2005
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Champions Tour
Professional wins14
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour4
Champions Tour8
Other2
Best results in Major Championships
Masters TournamentT17: 1979
U.S. OpenT11: 1979
The Open ChampionshipT36: 1979
PGA ChampionshipT11: 1974

Robert Lee Elder (born July 14, 1934) is an American professional golfer. He is best remembered for becoming the first African-American to play in the Masters Tournament in 1975.[1][2]

Contents

Background and family

One of ten children, Elder was born in Dallas, Texas, to Charles and Almeta Elder. He was nine years old when his father was killed in Germany during World War II, and his mother died three months later. At the age of 12, Elder found himself moving from one ghetto to another before being sent to Los Angeles, California to live with his aunt. Elder frequently cut classes to work as a caddy, and after two years at Manual Arts High School he dropped out.

Elder met his future wife, Rose Harper, at a golf tournament in Washington, D.C. The two got married in 1966. After getting married, Rose gave up her golfing career to become his manager.

Professional career

Life before the PGA Tour

Elder did not play a full round of 18 holes until he was 16. He took jobs in pro shops and locker rooms, in addition to caddying where he developed his game by watching his clients, and playing when he had the opportunity. Elder's game developed sufficiently for him to start hustling. His career took a big step after playing a match with heavyweight boxer Joe Louis, which led to Louis’s golf instructor, Ted Rhodes, taking Elder under his wing for three years. Under the tutelage of Rhodes, Elder was able to polish his game and he began playing in tournaments.

In 1959, Elder was drafted into the Army, and was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. While at Fort Lewis, Elder had the good fortune to be under the command of Colonel John Gleaster who was an avid golfer. Gleaster put Elder in a special services unit, which allowed him the opportunity to play golf on a steady basis.

Elder was discharged from the army in 1961, and joined the United Golf Association Tour (UGA) for black players. He had a dominant stretch in which he won 18 of 22 consecutive tournaments, but this tour did not have large prizes, often in the range of $500.

The PGA Tour

In 1967 Elder raised enough money to attend qualifying school for the PGA Tour. He finished 9th out of a class of 122 and gained his tour card for 1968. That year, he placed 40th on the money list in 1968, bringing in approximately $38,000. The highlight of Elder's rookie season was a memorable playoff loss to Jack Nicklaus at the American Golf Classic. Elder took Nicklaus to the fifth hole of sudden death before losing.

In 1971 Elder accepted a personal invitation from Gary Player to participate in the South African PGA Championship in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event marked the first integrated tournament in the country’s history. The country had apartheid policies in effect at the time, but he agreed to participate after the South African government agreed not to subject him or spectators to the usual segregation requirements. He also played in a number of other tournaments in Southern Africa plus he won the Nigerian Open in 1971.

In 1974, Elder earned his first win on the PGA Tour at the Monsanto Open, which gained him entry to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia the following year. This marked the first time an African American had qualified for the Masters since it began in 1934. Elder shot a 74 on day one and a 78 on day two of the 1975 Masters, missing the cut, but the impact of his presence in the field was clear.

In 1979 he became the first African American to qualify for play in the Ryder Cup. In 1984 at the age of 50, Elder joined the Senior PGA Tour.

The fight against racism

Life on tour

In 1975, Elder became the first African American to play in the Masters. Leading up to the tournament he received substantial amounts of hate mail. Fearing for his safety, during the week of the tournament he rented two houses in town and kept moving between them, and always had people around him when he went to eat.

At the Monsanto Open in 1968 in Pensacola, Florida, the same tournament at which he claimed his first PGA Tour victory six years later to qualify for the Masters, Elder and other black players on tour were forced to change their clothes in the parking lot because members of the club would not allow non-whites in their clubhouse. While playing in a tournament in Memphis, Tennessee, a fan picked up Elder's ball on a hole and threw it in a hedge. The incident was witnessed by another pro golfer, and Elder was given a free drop.

Elder tried to stay focused on the game, but unlike the majority of players on tour he was constantly bothered by unruly fans, frequently receiving hate mail and threatening phone calls.

Giving back and speaking out

Elder and his wife set up the Lee Elder Scholarship Fund in 1974. This fund was developed to offer monetary aid to low-income young men and women seeking money for college.

In 1986 he protested to the PGA governors for allowing four American golfers to play in a tournament in Sun City, Bophuthatswana, a small area set up by the apartheid regime of South Africa that surrounds it.

In 1990, Elder spoke out against country clubs that still excluded blacks from membership. Elder has actively promoted Summer Youth Golf Development Programs, raised money for the Negro College Fund, and served on the advisory boards of Goodwill Industries.

Professional wins (12)

PGA Tour wins (4)

No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of victoryRunner-up
1Apr 21, 1974Monsanto Open–10 (67-69-71-67=274)PlayoffEngland Peter Oosterhuis
2May 2, 1976Houston Open–10 (70-72-67-69=278)1 strokeUnited States Forrest Fezler
3Jul 9, 1978Greater Milwaukee Open–13 (66-70-70-69=275)PlayoffUnited States Lee Trevino
4Aug 20, 1978American Express Westchester Classic–10 (71-68-68-67=274)1 strokeUnited States Mark Hayes

PGA Tour playoff record (2–2)

No.YearTournamentOpponent(s)Result
11968American Golf ClassicUnited States Frank Beard, United States Jack NicklausNicklaus won with birdie on fifth extra hole
Beard eliminated with birdie on first hole
21972Greater Hartford OpenUnited States Lee TrevinoLost to birdie on first extra hole
31974Monsanto OpenEngland Peter OosterhuisWon with birdie on fourth extra hole
41978Greater Milwaukee OpenUnited States Lee TrevinoWon with par on eighth extra hole

Other wins (2)

Senior PGA Tour wins (8)

Results in major championships

Tournament1966196719681969
Masters TournamentDNPDNPDNPDNP
U.S. OpenT57CUTCUT67
The Open ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPCUT
Tournament1970197119721973197419751976197719781979
Masters TournamentDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPCUTDNPT19T42T17
U.S. OpenCUTDNPT29T45CUTDNPT35CUTT30T11
The Open ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPT36
PGA ChampionshipCUTDNPT24T24T11DNPT15CUTT42T35
Tournament19801981198219831984
Masters TournamentCUTCUTDNPDNPDNP
U.S. OpenCUTT33DNPDNPDNP
The Open ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNPDNP
PGA ChampionshipT26T49DNPT80CUT

DNP = Did not play
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Yellow background for top-10

U.S. national team appearances

Professional

References

External links