Lee Elder savours 'emotional experience' as guest honorary starter at Masters

Lee Elder, the first black golfer to play in The Masters in 1975, described joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial start to this year’s event as “one of the most emotional experiences I have ever witnessed or been involved in”.

Honorary Starter Lee Elder waves to the patrons as he is applauded by Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus during the ceremonial start to the 85th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Picture: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

With former champions Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson among those looking on, 86-year-old Elder didn’t hit a shot off the first tee along with Nicklaus and Player due to health issues, but that didn’t stop him soaking up the special occasion.

“It is certainly something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I have loved coming to Augusta National and playing here,” said Elder, who blazed a trail for the likes of Tiger Woods and other black players as he won four times on the PGA Tour in the 1970s.

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“My heart is very soft this morning, not heavy but soft because of the wonderful things that I have encountered since arriving here on Monday and being able to see some of the great friends that I have made over the past years, especially these two gentlemen. It's a great honour and great privilege.”

This year’s ceremonial start took place on the 60th anniversary of Player becoming the first international competitor to win at Augusta National while it is 35 years since Nicklaus landed the last of his six victories at the age of 46.

“I think that having Lee there was the right thing to do, a nice thing to do,” said Nicklaus. It's always a nice experience to open up the Masters, and it was great to share that first tee with Lee and Gary.”

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