Reminds you of the days Elder’s Auto would have turned off Benning Road onto 26th Street NE and driven all the way to Langston Golf Course, his home track for years.

Elder is 86 years old. He was born in Texas and raised in Los Angeles. 46 years ago he was the first black golfer allowed to play in the Masters. There should be both a celebration he did and a shame and regret that it took so long. In any case, the mere act of teeing off, of competing after banning others, mattered.

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“He was the first,” said Tiger Woods after becoming the first black man to win the Masters, 22 years after Elder first competed and 24 years before Elder was invited to Nicklaus and Player. “He was the one I looked up to. And because of what he did, I was able to play what my dream was here. “

It resonated then and it resonates now. Elder’s Journey will be retold this week for his appearance on Augusta National. Nowhere should that be more important than in Washington, DC

Elder has long and deep ties with the nation’s capital, Langston. He met his wife, Rose, at an All-Black United Golf Association event. In the 1960s he taught golf there to the youth of Washington. There he played annually at the old Capital City Classic. He began pursuing the idea of ​​managing the facility in the early 1970s and was granted the right to do so in 1978. He hosted legendary comedian Bob Hope. He hosted legendary basketball player Bill Russell. He saved Langston at a time when it might have been wasted in the Anacostia River.

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Revisiting what Elder meant to black golfers at the Masters, consider what Langston meant to black golfers in Washington. The life, career, and mission of Elder are woven into all of these.

Around the First World War, the district was essentially separate. Nowhere was this more evident than in the public recreational facilities. The golf course in East Potomac Park, still functional today, was home to white golfers and was in good enough shape to host the US Amateur Public Links Championship in 1923. Black golfers were on a nine-hole course with sand greens just off the northwest of the Lincoln Memorial, a facility that was not only in various disrepair but was threatened by the construction of the Memorial Bridge.

According to a comprehensive research report by historian Patricia Kuhn Babin, black golfers in the district have asked federal and congressional officials to provide them with a place to play.

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“Whenever a citizen of color looks at the beautiful, well-manicured golf links in East Potomac Park, be it a citizen of Washington or elsewhere, he naturally has a sense of the injustice of his exclusion, a feeling that it is day by day Day more pronounced and more widespread, ”wrote sociologist and civil rights activist Dwight Oliver Wendell Holmes in a letter to the director of the agency that oversaw the city’s golf courses. “So I won’t be surprised that a protest movement will emerge very quickly in the near future.”

That is the setting. Not just for golfing here, but for golfing across the country.

After a decade of fighting, the course along Anacostia and Kingman Lakes opened in 1939. It got its name from the nearby housing estate named after John Mercer Langston, the first black congressman from Virginia and the first dean of law school at Howard University.

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The course quickly became a haven for black golfers and a magnet for celebrities. Joe Louis, the former heavyweight champion, played there so often that a large tree on the third hole with par 5 is referred to as the “Joe Louis Tree” because he hit his ball there so often. Charlie Sifford, the first black player on the PGA Tour, played there. Calvin Peete, a longtime PGA touring professional, appeared repeatedly. Muhammad Ali came over.

But the truth is that for years, even after the district’s public courses were incorporated, Langston was not in very good shape. This, in part, fueled Elder’s search. Shouldn’t a course with a history of feeding black citizens be on the same level as its peers?

“Give me a year,” Elder told the Washington Post in 1978. “Come back this time next year and judge me. One day I hope to have this baby. . . in good condition, a first class public golf course. “

He experimented with different types of grass. He built a driving range. And he was dying to get kids involved, start a caddy program so they could make money and offer classes to local school children.

It is amazing how the issues and problems of golf affect from generation to generation. Elder’s story is hailed as one that helped separate the game. But half a century since he became Augusta National’s Jackie Robinson, you should check out the Masters field. The players come from all over the world. They are mostly white.

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That brings us back to Langston. Elder’s run in administering the old course ended in a dispute with the National Park Service and its insurance company in 1981. It closed, was revived and was sputtered.

So on Saturday the National Links Trust will hold a lunchtime event to celebrate Elder’s accomplishments and history. It’s a way of connecting the present with the past. In the coming years, Langston will serve as the home course for the new Howard golf team, which will be started in part with funds from NBA star Stephen Curry. This is a great way to ensure that the course has a relevant future.

When Elder hits the first tee on Thursday morning, it will remind golf fans that people who looked like him couldn’t always play in the Masters. It could spur Washingtoners to take the old public route he used to manage. Lee Elder represents golf’s struggle for inclusivity – in Augusta and beyond.