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Paine College Tees Up to Celebrate Golf Legend Lee Elder

April 5, 2021

Augusta, Ga…Leading up to the 85th Masters Tournament, Lee Elder, the first African-American to compete in the most prestigious golf tournament will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree for lifetime achievement.

Michael Thurmond, Chairman, announced that the Paine College Board of Trustees, and President Cheryl Evans Jones, will host a Reception celebrating Lee Elder on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Chairman Thurmond further stated that Chris Womack, Chairman, President, and CEO of Georgia Power, will join the College in paying tribute to the Golf Pioneer. Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr., City of Augusta, is also on the guest list to extend honors. Due to CDC COVID-19 guidelines, the College will observe strict social distancing protocols which will limit seating capacity and large crowds. The by invitation only event will be held on the front lawn facing Fifteenth Street. Invitations are non-transferable.

In December 2020, the College conferred the Honorary Doctorate degree upon Lee Elder during a virtual Commencement Convocation. This time, the College will re-enact the occasion with a Hooding ceremony in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to humanity.

"At the heart of this gathering is the goal of recognizing a true American hero who defied the odds of poverty, lack of access, and extreme hostile racial barriers, one who emerged as a role model for millions of young people throughout the world," said Chairman Michael Thurmond. "Lee Elder demonstrated how the power of faith, hard work, raw determination, and staying the course can impact one's life. Now more than ever, our communities need role models such as Lee Elder."

President Jones commented, "Paine College recognizes the enormous contributions that were made by Mr. Elder throughout his career. Well-known for being the first African-American to compete in the 1975 Masters Tournament, Mr. Elder used his golf profession and the love for the game to effect change and create opportunities for young golfers of all backgrounds".

In November 2020, the Augusta National Golf Club invited him to serve as an Honorary Starter for the 2021 Masters Golf Tournament. Masters Chairman Fred Ridley also announced the organization's plan to establish endowed scholarships in honor of Lee Elder and underwrite 100% of a new Women's Golf Program at Paine College. On April 8, 2021, Lee Elder will join honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to tee off the Masters Tournament.

A lot has been said about Lee Elder throughout the years and his association with Augusta National. Winning the 1974 Monsanto Open in Pensacola, Florida earned him an invitation to compete in the 1975 Masters Tournament. He was the first African-American to compete in the 1971 South African PGA during the Apartheid Era upon receiving an invitation from Gary Player. He was also the first African-American to play in the Ryder Cup in 1979.

Elder's relationship with Paine College began 41 years ago in 1975 when he accepted an invitation from Paine College President Julius S. Scott to attend a Reception in his honor. Of particular note, then SGA President Michael Thurmond, welcomed Lee Elder during the festivities held at Paine House. "As soon as I arrived on the campus, I immediately knew I had come home", said Elder recalling the warm reception from the Paine College Family. I departed Paine College and Augusta with a sense of knowing that I had made a difference and carried with me an extended family. It is my vision that the Augusta community and the world will embrace Paine College just as Paine embraced me 41 years ago. My hope is that philanthropists and the corporate community will support this Historically Black College that continues to generate opportunities for many students who otherwise would not have the chance to get a college degree," said Elder.

For more information about the celebratory event, contact Helene T. Carter at, or call (706) 821.8323.

About Paine College
Paine College, located in Augusta, Georgia, is a co-educational Historically Black College offering a liberal arts education. Founded in 1882, Paine College is accredited by Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) and was voted among Georgia's best Christian Colleges by EdSmart in 2021. To learn more about Paine College, visit

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