Lee Elder and his wife and manager, Sharon Elder, sat down with The Metro Spirit at local Wild Wings Cafe this past week.
According to GolfWorld, this summer, the 84-year-old will become the first African American to be awarded the USGA’s Bob Jones Award, the association’s highest honor. Not only is Elder the first African American to win the award, he was also the first African American golfer to play in the Masters Golf Tournament in 1975.
Elder will be given the award, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, at Pebble Beach Golf Links in June during the week of the U.S. Open.
“Lee’s perseverance, positive attitude, and generous spirit personifies the ideals that the Bob Jones Award represents,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis. “His grace and humility demonstrate his extraordinary character, and his work at the community level has paved the way for generations of future golfers. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor his incredible sportsmanship in the game.
Today at 84, Elder reflected on his golf career, his impact on the game and his influence with African American golfers.
When asked about the current diversity in the game of golf, Elder states, “Right now I’m not too happy because we only have two african americans playing on tour.”
He thinks back on how things were in the early 70’s, “ I felt that a lot of people let our race down by not backing the players at the time, I think that way. I felt that not only for myself, but by not giving African Americans a chance, by not giving them a chance to do the things that would have allowed them to continue with the game, I feel like we were let down. It’s very expensive. It’s very expensive to play the game of golf. To try and maintain a home, especially when you’re not making a comfortable living playing the game. I think that in the future that is certainly going to help.”
“There was a time that I felt like hey, what am i doing this for? Are there going to be people that will be able to utilize the things that I am out here striving for? Turns out I was very happy that I did, because there was a lot of players that came after me that really I don’t know if they would have been able to be exposed that quickly if I had turned away. Speaking of the likes of Jim Dent, Pete Brown, Calvin Peete, Jim Thorpe.”
Elder says what keeps him excited about golf is watching his favorite player. “I’m just so happy to see Tiger back playing because the recognition is still there. And it’s going to be good for the game. Looking at the people who are turning out. It will entices more blacks to the game, not just continuing to go towards basketball, football.”
Elder worked with Tiger when the young phenom was in his early teens. “The trend did turn when he left the game. The reason for that is because he was the one that everybody looked up to and they still to today. I just hope that he will continue to stay in good health so he can continue to stay out there and play. The generation that are going to start into the game of golf will have a chance to work at it and can get the support they need. Tiger is important to that.”
How’s your game now?
“How would your game be at 84?” Elder chuckles. “My short game is always good.”