Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to compete in The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, died Sunday, at 87 in Escondido, California.
There is a St. Louis connection to Elder’s historic career.
He earned his birth in The Masters by winning the Monsanto Open Pensacola, Florida, on April 21, 1974. Monsanto’s world headquarters was in St. Louis County.
It was impossible for Elder and other Black golfers to play in any PGA of America tournament until the organization eliminated its “Caucasians-only” rule. It was 14 years after Jackie Robinson first took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1967, Elder finished ninth out of 122 players in PGA qualifying school to earn his place on the PGA Tour. He paid the $10,00 entry fee himself.
The following year, he tied Jack Nicklaus in the American Golf Classic in Akron, Ohio, after 72 holes, before losing on the fifth hole of a sudden death playoff.
The Masters had announced in 1972 that an invitation would go to any player who won on the PGA Tour. After winning the Monsanto Open, Elder played in the 1975 Masters. He had to deal with death threats by phone and mail.
He told CNN in 2015 he was warned: “to check behind every tree” during his rounds.
“It was frightening. That was part of the reason for renting two houses,” he said. “We did not want the people to know where I was staying.”
Elder was honored during the 2021 Masters and hit ceremonial first drives with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Region forces Kroenke, NFL to punt
The St. Louis region scored a touchdown worth a lot more than seven points. Try $790 million.
With a trial date set for early January, pitting St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority against the NFL, the league and L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke caved in.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and County Executive Sam Page released a joint statement Wednesday saying, “Today, St. Louis City, County, and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority signed a $790 million settlement agreement with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the National Football League.”
“This historic agreement closes a long chapter for our region, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for our communities while avoiding the uncertainty of the trial and appellate process.”
Jones and Page reminded the region that some tough decisions lie ahead. Today’s victorious allies could become foes as negotiations begin on how the jackpot will be divided.
“The City, County, and STLRSA are still determining how settlement funds will be allocated. We will provide more updates as they become available,” the statement said.
The talks will also include the attorneys that represented the region in the case. Are their respective firms really going to take home 35% of the prize as specified in contracts when they too on the case?
Look for that debate to go into overtime.
My guess is the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues and MLS expansion franchise St. Louis City will try to get a piece of the settlement pie.
The respective franchise owners could base requests on the impact losing the Rams had on the region’s economy. A share of the $790 million could help them enhance facilities and put better teams on the field/ice, thus assisting the region in recouping some of those lost Rams’ dollars.
Once the settlement is divided, there probably will be an ask. The answer should be no.
The Reid Roundup
Lee Elder was not the first Black golfer to win a PGA Tournament. Pete Brown in 1964 and Charlie Sifford in 1967 and 1969 won PGA Tour events… Grambling State kicker Garrett Urban made a 25-yard field goal to beat Southern University 29-26 in the 2021 Bayou Classic on Saturday, Nov. 27. Nearly 68,000 attended the game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the largest attendance on record since the game returned to the city after Hurricane Katrina, event leaders said… Wilberforce University announced its baseball program would return after an 80-year absence. Support from the Cincinnati Reds is helping bring baseball back to the nation's oldest private HBCU… According to the Lansing State Journal, Michigan State University will offer head football coach Mel Tucker a 10-year, $95 million contract extension that would make him the highest-paid Black coach in American sports. Penn State University’s James Franklin has agreed to a six-year, $38.2 million deal.