Masters, honorary starter tradition in Augusta

Lee Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to continue the long-standing honorary starter tradition on Thursday morning to mark the start of the 2021 Masters Tournament.

Elder, who became the first black man to compete in The Masters 46 years ago, joined Nicklaus and Player as a guest for the first time in this year’s tradition, which started back in 1963.

News of Elder assuming the role of Honorary Starter alongside Nicklaus and Player was released last November, announcing that he would be joining the two former Champions who had previously spent years sharing the honour with Arnold Palmer.

The Masters 2021

Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said the honour would “recognize (Elder’s) 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.”

Elder, now 86, had been deeply moved by the gesture, and had said at the time of the announcement that to be invited back one more time had meant the world to him.

“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” he had said.

“So, to be invited back to the first tee one more time to join Jack and Gary means the world to me.”

Elder was joined by special guests, which included his family, a group of Black PGA professionals, and representatitves from Paine College – a place where Augusta National has established scholarships in his name, and that is also bestowing on him an honorary degree.

His debut in Augusta was in a white suit, in 2006, as a caddy for his brother Edoardo (on the field as holder of the US Amateur Championship title).All alongside the legend of all time, Tiger Woods, reigning champion at the time. This is how Francesco Molinari met “The Masters”, scheduled this year from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 April. Thirteen years after that special experience, the Turin champion touched perhaps the greatest feat of his career. In 2019 he stroked the title, then closing the competition in fifth place and opening the way, due to some decisive errors on the “Amen Corner”, right in Woods. From that moment the climb to the top of the world ranking for the Piedmontese has stopped. And now at the Augusta National “Laser Frankie”, against all odds, he will try to take what he only touched two years ago.

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