For Barrier Breaking Lee Elder Open Championship Sparks Fond Memories

The 87-year-old Elder is best known for breaking the color barrier at the 1975 Masters, but four years later he broke another ce
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When the 149th Open Championship begins on Thursday at the Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, in southeast England, Lee Elder will be watching golf’s oldest tournament from his home in the San Diego area.

The 87-year-old Elder is best known for breaking the color barrier at the 1975 Masters, but four years later he broke another ceiling for Black golfers by competing in the 1979 Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. He would not experience the same racism at the Open Championship that permeated his first trip to the Masters.

“The people were so nice and welcoming,” Elder told The Undefeated. “Most of them had probably never seen a brother play and didn’t know what to expect from me and what kind of game that I would be playing. I think that they were surprised to see a brother from the U.S. who had accomplished some things that other Black players had not accomplished. And I think that was the big story and the reason why they wanted to see me and I was excited to see them.

“I was very proud to be the first Black American to play in the tournament. I don’t think the Black players that came before me like Ted Rhodes and Charlie Sifford ever looked at the possibility of playing in the Open Championship.”

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