Lee Elder, former pro and top PGA golfer, dies at 87

Lee Elder, a professional golf player who was the first Black golfer to play in the Masters tournament and later served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, died Tuesday. He was 87.

The Fort Washington native and former United States Air Force Academy graduate was injured in the Operation Desert Storm war, suffering a partial career-ending leg amputation in the Middle East in December 1991, said his son Zachary Elder. He had been hospitalized for numerous leg ailments.

Lee Elder was one of the most celebrated and successful amateur golfers of his time, playing against the then-best golfers of his era and eventually becoming a professional on the European Tour. He was also instrumental in bringing golf to the John F. Kennedy Schools in Washington.

Lee Elder and his wife, Lu, visited the White House after winning the Masters in 1972. (Karen Tormey/AP)

In 1990, Elder received the Medal of Honor for his service during Vietnam. He graduated from high school in Fort Washington.

After retirement from professional golf, Elder served in the Army, teaching African-American youth golf and joining the U.S. Golf Association as its director of recruiting.

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For many, Elder was America’s greatest amateur golf player.

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