Monday night, some 750 people gathered in the Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel to honor Lee Elder with the first annual Herman A. English Humanitarian Award for his service to youth through the Lee Elder Scholarship Foundation.
"It was a delightful evening," the 42-year-old Washington golfer said over the telephone from Los Angeles yesterday. "I was amazed at the turnout - golfers Billy Casper, Pete Brown and Jim Wiechers; Jimmy Harris (quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams), and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley.
"We realized more than $1,000 for the foundation. I told the audience that the big opportunity for black youngsters who want to become tour golfers is through the colleges. The young white kids are beginning to emerge on the tour are all college products - Tom Watson, Bruce Lietzke, Jerry and the rest.
"It's a little harder for a black golfer to make it as a pro because he doesn't get to play the good courses that should prime him for the competition. But colleges offer a great opportunity."
Rose Elder, the golfer's wife and business manager, was with him in Los Angeles and told of the progress of the Lee Elder foundation.
"So far," she explained, "we have not been able to give a full scholarship of $20,000, but we have given partial scholarships in addition to establishing several summer camps for the Washington inner-city children.
"One of our big fund-raisers is the annual Lee Elder Invitational Tournament, which this year will be held at King's Mill Golf Club in Williamsburg and will be sponsored by Anheuser Busch.It will be held Sept. 3-4.
"I'm also writing a golfers cook book, which is in the final stages of editing and should be out in April. The entire proceeds will go to the foundation. The book contains the favorite recipes of the tour golfers and their wives."
Elder won't play in the Los Angeles Open that starts Thursday. So far, he has played in the Tueson, Crosby, Hawaiian and Bob Hope tournaments.
"I've made about $21,000," he said, "and that's just about the pace I've set for myself. I try to set goals for West Coast tournaments, the Florida circuit, and then the rest. So far, I'm ahead of last year when I made over $100,000.
Elder has been in Los Angeles principally to undergo another examination by Dr. Robert Kerlan, one of the top sports doctors in the country.
"Dr. Kerlan has devised a new back brace for Lee," his wife said. "The problem is that he can't wear it playing golf. It's really an old injury in the lower vertebrae. Every day he was in the Crosby, Lee has to have therapy before he stepped on the course."
"I'm overgolfed and I know I need a rest when I start hooking," Elder broke in. "I don't want to develop a hook but that's what I've been doing. I'm coming back to Washington and will rest for a few days and then I want to work on my irons. I don't know if I'll play in the Jackie Gleason tournamnet, which opens the Florida circuit next weeks. I have to see how the back responds."
elder said the Hope tournament, a 90-hole affair, was exhausting. The format called for a pro to play with three amateur partners the first four rounds. On the fifth day, the pros were left to themselves.
"I love to play with amateurs," said Elder, a courteous, gregarious man. "I think pros owe the amateurs something. About the only drawback is that you spend so much time trying to be nice that you lose your concentration."
Elder played with an old friend, former President Ford, in one of his rounds in the Hope