Long before Tiger Woods arrived on the scene, Lee Elder had been heralded as a breakout talent who was destined to become golf’s first Black professional. Elder, who led a boycott of the 1965 PGA Championship, died on October 27, 2017, at the age of 89. He was enshrined in the Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. In Golf Digest on Monday, five of Elder’s contemporaries — including Davis Love III and Seve Ballesteros — paid tribute to the impact the Negro Leagues legend had made, telling the magazine that his career was pivotal in fostering a broader understanding and acceptance of Black sports figures.
In 1968, Elder set the PGA Tour scoring record with a 72 — which he held for 19 years. He never lost a tournament after 1967, and finished the 1972 season ranked 10th on the PGA Tour money list. His resume is so impressive that he currently holds the record for a win at the Sony Open:
A future Hall of Famer and grand father to NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, Elder helped pave the way for future Black golfers such as Woods. Elder was born in Tacoma, Washington, and said his love of the game started young. He credited his mother, an attorney, for teaching him the game as a child.
“My mother made sure I had an opportunity to pick up the game,” Elder told Sports Illustrated in 1993. “I liked to play for hours and hours every day, got into trouble and had to be tackled by my mother. But even that isn’t who I am.
Elder managed to navigate his way around the Jim Crow era in golf, partly by playing with white players. In late 1960, he won the Washington Open.
Read the full story at Golf Digest.
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