AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – There’s a new doctor in town. Paine College awarded an honorary degree to a trailblazer known for his success on the links.
“Mr. Legend himself, Lee Elder,” exclaimed the announcer as Elder rolled up to a ceremony on a golf cart in his honor at Paine.
“Golf has not always been good to African-Americans. It has not always returned that kind of affection,” said Georgia Power President and Lee Elder’s friend, Chris Womack.
Elder, the first African-American to ever play in the Masters, is now a doctor.
He said, “I want to thank Paine College for accepting Lee Elder some time ago when I first arrived here in 1975.”
At the time when Elder’s sights were on a green jacket, students and staff at Paine College welcomed him with open arms and a reception.
“I was watching the Masters in 1975 and what a proud moment it was to see Lee Elder tee off at Augusta National and walk the fairways of Augusta National golf course,” recalled Womack.
As Tuesday’s ceremony at Paine resembled that warm welcome in the 70s, Elder’s lifetime achievement at the college is something he says he’ll hold dearly. He’s even making a mark on the calendar.
“The City of Augusta herby proclaims April 6, 2021, as Lee Elder Day,” said Mayor Hardie Davis.
Right now, Augusta National is helping fund the creation of a women’s golf team at Paine, and the golf club has endowed two scholarships named for Elder.
“Lee’s been a good friend but more importantly he’s been a good friend to golf. Been a good friend to African-Americans who enjoy the game of golf and to help the growth and development of that sport,” said Womack.
The 86-year-old’s agenda is pretty full while he’s in Augusta. Thursday Elder will shoot the ceremonial tee shot for the 2021 Masters Tournament with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.