Friday, July 10

Golf Digest's Jerry Tarde: Lee Elder as an Honorary Starter at the Masters

GOLF DIGEST EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JERRY TARDE wrote about being inspired by honorary starters at the Masters, beginning with Jock Hutchison.

It was 1976. Tarde was a college student. He drove his Gremlin to a nursing home in suburban Chicago to meet the 1921 British Open champion. Hutchison and Fred McLeod were the original honorary starters at the Masters.

Lee Elder won the 1974 Monsanto Open.
Now Tarde has a new inspiration:
I expect to be inspired again this year, when the Masters is played off-kilter in November. I have no inside information, none at all, operating only in the belief that the Augusta National Golf Club does the right thing. In my imagination, I'm rushing to the plantation clubhouse on a crisp autumnal morning to see Jack and Gary on the first tee with Lee Elder, 86, celebrating the 45th anniversary of breaking the color barrier at the 1975 Masters and doing it again as the first Black honorary starter.
He's not a past champion, you say? Neither were Hutchison, McLeod or [Ken] Venturi. But what's Elder's connection? He won the Bob Jones Award for sportsmanship last year—reflecting the virtue of Augusta's founder is enough for me....

"I had a close association with the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who introduced me to Dr. King in 1967," Elder says. "I met the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Dr. Walter Fauntroy and John Lewis. I was inspired by their work and the fight they carried on. I wanted to be a part of it, which wasn't easy for a golfer because we played on weekends."

Now, he's too old to walk in protests, yet still strong enough to walk to the first tee. Would he accept if asked? "In a heartbeat," he says.

In my mind, I see Nicklaus and Player welcoming Elder, the way old friends and warriors do.

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