Black spectators at Augusta National are almost as rare as eagles, American bald or double birdie. But what few blacks were here yesterday clustered behind the rope near the practice tee shortly before noon to see one special man prepare for his third Masters Tournament.
"You see him, that's Lee Elder; that's the Jackie Robinson of golf," Chuck Turner told his 12-years old son. "He was the first to play here (in 1975) and I've seen every shot he's hit in his two tries."
Turner is a civil service communications specialist. He has lived here 11 years.
"It took me till '72 to get a ticket ($40 for the tournament, $12 a day)," he said. "But that's not unusual for a new resident, white or black. The way I got mine was when they issued 1,500 more, 300 local and 1,200 regional."
Turner believes Elder, the Washington pro, is ready for the Masters, and that Masters is nearly ready for Elder.
"If he does well, he'll be well received by the gallery and by the locals," Turner said. "But the people who run this tournament would not look on it as favorably as if Nicklaus or Weiskoft or 'one of their boys' won it.
The caddies here all are black, and so are the men on the work crews and in service jobs. That hasn't changed. Although, the money they say some caddies make this week, it probably won't be long until white caddies want in.
"Another thing I noticed. When the local paper ran its special edition four sections, Sunday on Masters, there was not one story about Lee's first appearance."
Elder hit the ball firmly in practice."I'd take his worst swing," Turner said. "You know, he made the leader board lte last year. He was about four or five under when everybody but me was watching Nicklaus or Watson. Then he came to the 16th took a double bogey, and that was it."
Elder finished at 287, one under par, tied for the 19th place, worth $2,500.
"The tie for fifth at Greenboro last week made me feel a lot better. It sure boosted ny confidence about playing here," Elder said. "I'm about three tournaments behind where I'd normally be. This is actually only my eight of the 13 tournaments this year, 'cause I missed the cut at San Diego."
The attention created by hi playing in the Masters has diminished sharply, Elder said. "I'm not on staged any longer. I'm really relaxed, enabling me to work on my game, to collect my thoughts, without having lots of guys in behind me, every step of the way, asking for interviews."
Elder shot 76-68-72 last year.
"I can play this course. I proved that to myself with three real solid rounds (after 74-79 and missed the cut in 1975)."
But will there be many blacks in attendance this week? "Not from this particular area," Elder declared. "Blacks here are working people and they have a hard time handling the cost fo tickets and, the first two days (Thursday and Friday) most of them couldn't get off work to come out, even if they did have the money."