The Augusta National, known for its well-maintained grounds and serene ambiance has been home to the Masters Tournament since 1934 along with several other PGA and Women’s Amateur golfing events.
Many players made history on this terrain but one altered the sport of golf in its entirety, allowing opportunities for those such as Tiger Woods to be recognized as a professional on this landmark.
In 1975, Lee Elder was the first African American to play in the Masters, breaking its stigma of color though it wasn’t without a cost. Forty-six years ago, he was faced with what most utilize as a common fear tactic, racism.
He was threatened, ridiculed, and banned from an empty Augusta restaurant refusing to serve him. Now forty-six years later, Georgia has passed a new voting law that many claim was targeted specifically towards minority voters, making it more difficult to cast ballots.
Protesters near the tournament seized the moment to publicize their emotions, holding signs reading “Let Us Vote” and “It’s About Us” causing mood shifts to circulate the tournament.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, an Augusta National member, made a statement by pulling the All-Star game from Georgia as a show of solidarity.
Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley was cautious in the cross-fire maintaining a neutral stance stating the right to vote is “fundamental in our democratic society”.
“No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process. This is fundamental to who we are as a people”, said Ridley after ignoring rumors of the Masters being removed from Augusta.
It is alarming that after all these years, the endless contributions Black dignitaries such as John Shippen, Charlie Sifford, Renee Powell and Lee Elder have made to this sport, are not respected or given the recognition they so deserve.
Cameron Champ, who will be playing in his second straight Masters, said its big for Elder to be the symbol for Black success on the course.
“For us, that’s the people who I look up to,” Champ said. “I know who my grandfather did. So, it definitely means a lot, again, to kind of learn from him and kind of take — kind of pick things out and just kind of pick his brain.”
With the efforts of Champ and Augusta National as well as basketball player Stephen Curry assisting with Howard’s golf program, there’s been a visible increase in support for opportunities in golf for people of color but, more than fortuity, people of color want more access and coverage to these prestigious events.
The world of golf should not be known as a White man’s game but as a culturally diverse game.