On this day, In 1974 Lee Elder won his first PGA Tour title and with it earned the first invitation to The Masters for an African American. He earned his playing rights in 1967 and joined the tour the following year. As a 34‐year old rookie he took Jack Nicklaus to five holes of a sudden‐death playoff before losing in the American Golf Classic.
In 1968 he had an exemption from qualifying and finished second in the Memphis Open. He slumped the next season, but, bounced back with earnings of $49,933, $70,401 and $84,730 in the next three years.He attracted world‐wide attention later that season when, at the invitation of Gary Player, he played in South Africa. On the same trip he won the Nigerian Open.
He began playing on the black United Golf Association tour in 1963, the year he married his wife, Rose.
“The most you could make was maybe $10,000 if you played in all of them‐and you had to play in all of them,” Elder said. After their marriage Rose took over the business aspects. of their life. “I play golf, she handles the business,” Elder said. The relationship still holds. She’s officially listed as his business manager.
Elder is not the first black to win on the pro tour. Charles Sifford captured the 1967 Hartford open and the 1969 Los Angeles open and Pete Brown triumphed in the 1970 Williams San biego oen. But their victories were scored before the Masters changed its rules of invitation to make winners of all tournaments eligible
He called his wife, Rose, immediately after and in, a choking voice said:
“Baby, we did it.
“We finally did it, baby. We finally won.”
“He had to fight for everything in his life,” Rose said by telephone from their home in Washington.
And in Augusta, Ga., Clifford Roberts, chairman of the Masters, said, when informed of Elder’s victory:
“He’s automatically earned his invitation and he will receive an invitation to play in the Masters. We’re very delighted he’s done so.”