A confident Lee Elder promised today that he wouldn't be satisfied only with making the cut in his second appearance in the Masters golf tournament. "I'm ready," he said, "and I think my game is sharp enough to go all the way."
Elder drove here this morning from Greensboro, N.C., after a brief stop in Columbia, S.C., Sunday night where he attended a banquet in his honor. The Washington touring pro made a fine showing the last two days of the Greater Greensboro Open, finishing with rounds of 70 and 69. He tied for 14th price with a four-under-par 285 and picked up a check for $3,625.50.
Elder has a new set of irons he used for the first time at Greensboro. Like the Augusta National Course here," Forest Oaks Country Club, where the GGO was played, has many elevated greens.
"I made my irons weaker," Elder explained. "That is, I gave them more loft because Augusta requires a lot of high shots. I found out at Greensboro that I won't hit the ball as far with the new clubs but I had phenomenal success hitting the greens in regulation. If I can do the same in the Master, you're loing to hear from me.
"One thing about Augusta is that the greens will be faster. I was cutting across the ball in Greensboro when I was putting because I had to hit the ball more firmly. There wasn't too much touch at Greensboro but there will be here."
In his first appearance in the Masters in 1975, Elder was the center of attention because he was the first black man ever to play in te tourney. He could get no rest. He was pursued by reporters and photographers everywhere he went.
"I shot 152 in 1975 and failed to make the cut," he recalled. "But my mind wasn't on golf, I'll tell you that. I thought I was on a crusade or something. But I'm raring to go now. I'm striking the ball well and driving it straight. I never felt better physically. I have had back problems but they're all cleared up and I'll have no excuses if I don't do well here."
The personal demands on Elder have been heavy. He will entertain 14 people at the masters. "I didn't think I could get all those tickets," he said. "The Masters people have bent over backwards to help me and I appreciate it. I got a telegram from a friend wishing me luck and he finished with: 'I can't get a ticket but I'm sure you'll help me.' I got my bag limit, as the hunters say."
Elder is enormously popular with the galleries and his fellow pros. Coming off the green on the 18th hole at Greensboro Sunday, Elder patiently signed autographs for some youngsters for 15 minutes. One boy looked longingly at Elder's golf cap and Elder look it off and presented it to the delighted youngster. He gave the kids all the golf balls he had in his bag and all of his wooden tees.
"There goes the new Pied Piper," said fellow touring pro and friend John Schlee. "Lee Elder is some kind of man."