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Lee Elder Day: Golf pioneer honored with honorary doctorate and a salute from city

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 11:45 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - This year makes 85 years of Masters tournaments. And while we watch the players of today, it’s important to remember those who paved the way as well.

Golf legend Lee elder is here in Augusta for a celebration in his honor.

Back in 1975 when Elder became the first African American to play in the Masters, Paine College opened the doors to him and his entourage, and today they opened the doors to him once again.

“I hereby confer upon you the doctorate degree of Humane Letters Honoris Pelzer, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities. There too appertaining.”

This time for another very special honor. The golf pioneer was awarded a doctorate at Paine College.

“I just want to say thank you so very much for this great honor, I appreciate it,” Elder said.

Before he had a doctorate degree, Elder entered the golf world the same way many other young black men did around the 1950s, as a caddy.

“I mean, African Americans have always loved golf. Now golf has not always been good to African Americans, it has not always returned that kind of affection,” said Georgia Power CEO Chris Womack. “You never thought you would see an African American play at Augusta National in the Masters.”

After winning his first PGA tournament in 1975, Elder became the first African American to break the color barrier at the Masters.

“And what a proud moment it was to see Lee Elder tee off at Augusta National and walk through the fairways of Augusta National golf course,” Womack said.

Along with presenting Elder with an honorary doctorate degree for lifetime achievement, with the help of Augusta National, Paine College will be launching two scholarships in his name and starting a women’s golf team.

“It shows the fruits of and the returns of all the hard work that lee elder has put into this great sport,” Womack said.

Surrounded by Paine alumni, city leaders and family, the now Dr. Elder vowed to continue the push for diversity in the Masters.

“And the wonderful things I know that we will undertake as we go forward here at Paine College,” he said.

Eder was also presented the mayor’s Legacy Award by Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr., and he officially declared April 6 as Lee Elder Day in the city of Augusta.

But the week of celebrations is just getting started. Elder will also serve as an honorary starter at the Masters First Tee Ceremony on Thursday morning. He’ll be joining golfers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for that honor.

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