Lee Elder: Rory McIlroy and David Howell lead tributes to famed golfer

Elder added to his collection of Tribute Volleys against Tiger Woods in 1976 Tributes have been paid to Lee Elder, the first African-American golfer to play at the Masters, who has died aged 87….

Lee Elder: Rory McIlroy and David Howell lead tributes to famed golfer

Elder added to his collection of Tribute Volleys against Tiger Woods in 1976

Tributes have been paid to Lee Elder, the first African-American golfer to play at the Masters, who has died aged 87.

Rory McIlroy and David Howell were among the leading golfers to remember Elder, who died on Friday.

Born in California, he won three US amateur titles between 1956 and 1964, along with 22 top-five finishes in majors and numerous other titles.

However, he was discriminated against as a professional by the PGA and refused to play at Augusta.

“I didn’t mind trying to go somewhere where you’re not given any preference and you have a chance to make it,” he told Golf Digest in 1999.

Elder was the top amateur in the world for four years in a row from 1958, and won the inaugural US Amateur in 1956.

He earned an exemption to play in the Masters in 1961, but arrived at Augusta with the tournament again under racial scrutiny.

Just three years earlier, England’s Peter Thomson became the first European to win the Masters after becoming the first non-white entrant in the second round.

A month later, Elder, who was leading by one shot overnight, had his tee shot out of bounds on the 12th hole in what he later described as a “white strike”.

He continued to challenge golf’s rules, and filed a federal suit in 1960 that was later backed by the US Justice Department.

“This was the most hard-fought legal battle in the history of the US PGA,” said Elder in 1985.

“There was a very uneasy relationship at that time between the Black-Man-Involved community and the White-Man-Involved community, and the PGA International Club took me to the cleaners.”

He had to play a match in a modified golfing event, known as The Tribute, against Tiger Woods in 1976 as a condition of the Supreme Court case, and declared the situation “absolutely” right.

McIlroy said Elder’s legacy was inspirational, and said: “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as driven to win than Lee.

“He’s probably, when you take this on the grand scale, the most famous African-American golfer of all time.”

Howell added: “Tiger and I grew up watching Lee, learning our game the hard way against him because he was so good.

“Lee was the one guy I always looked up to to show me the ropes and hopefully to carry on what he did for me personally.”

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