Lee Elder cherishes honorary starter’s role
April 09 2021 12:22 AM
Honorary starters Lee Elder and Jack Nicklaus of the US with South Africa’s Gary Player during the c
Honorary starters Lee Elder and Jack Nicklaus of the US with South Africa’s Gary Player during the ceremonial start on the Masters yesterday.

Reuters/ Augusta

A clearly moved Lee Elder was warmly welcomed at the Masters when he joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as a new honorary starter for the 2021 tournament at Augusta National yesterday.
A brilliant sun had barely risen over the clubhouse when 86-year-old Elder, the first Black man to compete in the Masters in 1975, was driven to the first tee in a golf cart as a new major season dawned.
“I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in,” Elder said.
“It is certainly something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I have loved coming to Augusta National and playing here.
“My heart is very soft this morning, not heavy, soft, soft because of the wonderful things that I have encountered since arriving here on Monday.”
Elder has limited mobility and did not hit a tee shot.
Shortly after Elder, nine-times major winner Gary Player, sprightly as ever at 85, emerged from the clubhouse and hugged Nicklaus’s wife Barbara.
He then ventured to the tee with six-times Masters champion and 18-times major winner Nicklaus, who wore a yellow sweater to fend off a slight chill in the crisp morning air.
A gallery of several hundred people were on hand, smaller than usual due to the limited number of spectators allowed this year because of coronavirus concerns.
“Today, Lee Elder will inspire us and make history,” said Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley.
“Lee, it is my privilege to say, ‘you have the honours’,” he added.
Elder rose gingerly from a chair in which he had been sitting and acknowledged the warm applause, before Ridley subsequently introduced three-times Masters winner Player, who split the first fairway with a superb drive that went a good 200 yards.
The South African, one of five players to complete the grand slam of winning all four modern majors, kicked out a leg in playful delight to celebrate his shot.
Nicklaus, 81 and not quite as nimble as Player, also hit the fairway, though his swing was not as fluid and his drive was some 40 yards shorter than Player’s.
With that the 85th Masters was officially underway.

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