AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Lee Elder was warmly welcomed at the Masters when he joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the new honorary starter for the 2021 tournament that kicked off at Augusta National on Thursday.
The brilliant sun was barely rising over the clubhouse when the 86-year-old Elder, the first Negro to compete in the Masters in 1975, drove to the first tee in a golf cart when the new major season dawned.
The senior has limited mobility and has not hit a three-pointer.
Shortly after, Elder, the nine-time main winner of Gary Player, brilliantly as always at the age of 85, stepped out of the clubhouse and hugged Nicklaus ’wife Barbara.
He then ventured onto a T-shirt with six-time Masters Champion and 18-time main winner Nicklaus, who wore a yellow sweater to defend himself from the slight cold in the fresh morning air.
At hand was a gallery of several hundred people, about the same number as those present when the November Masters was officially played without paying spectators, although members and their guests, as well as the media, inflated the numbers.
“Today, Lee Elder will inspire us and go down in history,” Augusta National President Fred Ridley said.
“Lee, I’m honored to say, ‘You have honors.’
Elder acknowledged the hearty applause, before Ridley subsequently introduced the three-time Masters player, who shared the first fairway with an excellent drive that crossed a good 200 meters.
Nicklaus, 81 and not quite as agile as the Player, also hit the waterway, although his momentum was not as fluid and his drive was some 40 meters shorter than the player.
In addition, the 85th Masters is officially underway.
Americans Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford were the first pairings at 8 a.m. local time (1200 GMT).
Defending champion Dustin Johnson was scheduled to come out at 10:30 p.m.
There is a small chance of rain on Thursday, and the risk of bad weather increases on Friday and Saturday.
Andrew Oba Report; Editing: Toby Davis