AUGUSTA, Ga. – A handful of current and past Masters competitors made their way to the first tee early Thursday morning at Augusta National to watch history. Among them was Cameron Champ, one of just four Black members on the PGA Tour, who stood in amazement as Lee Elder, the first Black player to tee it up in the Masters, helped kick off this 85th edition as an honorary starter alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
“It was just amazing for them to recognize Lee being the first African-American to play in the Masters,” Champ said on the range afterward. “Just for the Black community and Black golfers and minority golfers in general, that’s a huge step in the right direction. And I know for him, it meant a lot, especially for his family. I know his health isn’t too good right now, but I know he wasn’t going to miss this for the world.
For me again, it’s just amazing to see.”
Champ said he had the chance of sitting down and talking with Elder on Wednesday. Despite being just 25 years old, Champ has been the most outspoken player on Tour when it comes to current social and racial issues. Champ said Elder reminds him of his late grandfather, Mack, who picked up the game in segregated Texas and later taught his grandson how to play.
“Lee’s just an amazing, loving guy, kind of the same way my grandfather was,” Champ said. “He just has so much love and caring for others, even though how much they endured during their time when they were younger, and they came out the opposite way than what most people would think would’ve happened. For me, he’s someone I look up to, who I try to take things from and kind of learn and kind of figure out my true identity as a man. … My grandfather, those were the guys he watched and the guys I know he looked up to in the game.
“Obviously, it would’ve been amazing if my grandfather was still alive to see this. But for Lee to set the example and set the pathway for African-American golfers, this morning was just amazing and a huge moment.”