Celebrating Our Legends
Augusta Calvin Peete Jim Thorpe Lee Elder Masters Vintage

Celebrating Our Legends

In the tapestry of history, the influence of African Americans spans far and wide, shaping the cultural landscape in profound ways. From the defiant rhythms of jazz to the soul-shaking beats of hip hop, from the fearless fashion and athleticism of sports icons to the trailblazing creativity of trendsetters and style pioneers, African-American influence has left an indelible mark on the fabric of society. As we celebrate the golf’s opening major and its rich tradition, we also honor the powerful impact of early African-American golfers who defied the odds and paved the way for our sport to reach a wider audience. 



Join Eastside as we delve into the stories of Lee Elder, Calvin Peete and Jim Thorpe. We’ll unpack their lasting impacts and examine the unique styles and apparel choices they brought to the fairways of Augusta.


An Elder Statesman

Lee Elder was born in 1934, the same year as the inaugural Masters Tournament. More than 40 years later, he'd become the first Black man to compete in the field. Elder's road to Augusta was far longer and more arduous than Magnolia Lane. 


Divisive ideologies remained rampant across American culture in 1975, evidenced by the multiple death threats that forced him to bounce between houses to hide his whereabouts during the tournament. However, Lee did have plenty of supporters, particularly among fellow competitors. 


Reportedly, seven-time major champion Gene Sarazen met Lee during his practice round. At age 73, Sarazen was not competing that week but wanted to share his course knowledge. Then there was Gary Player, who hosted Lee at the 1971 South African PGA Championship in a step towards ending Apartheid. In being the first Black man to compete at Augusta, Lee cemented his name next to greats like Jackie Robinson and Althea Gibson. 


That week, Lee strode confidently down the fairway in a green cashmere sweater, with the oversized collar of his polo draping over the subtle V-neck (see image above). Green is the color of choice when in Augusta – for obvious reasons. The lush fairways and floral blooms are a constant reminder that spring is here and golf season is upon us. 


Lee’s styling perfectly captured the essence of the tournament. He completed this legendary fit with his trademarked high-crown visor, patent leather saddleback golf shoes and flare-bottom pants, which were a staple of the time.


In a full circle moment, Lee was made an Honorary Starter at the 2021 Masters. Eastside Golf founders Olajuwan Ajanaku and Earl Cooper were there to witness it. He died later that year at the age of 87.


Lee Elder (center) poses with African-American PGA Professionals, including Eastside Golf Co-Founder Earl Cooper (far-right), before serving as Honorary Starter at the 2021 Masters (photo courtesy of the PGA of America). 


Lee Elder Facts
First black competitor at The Masters (1975);
Competed in 21 major championships (including four Masters) and amassed six top-25 finishes;
25 United Golf Association Wins;
4 PGA Tour Wins;
8 PGA Tour Champions Wins;
4 International Wins;
First black member of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team (1979);
First black golfer honored by the USGA with the Bob Jones Award (2019);

The Drive to Compete

As the saying goes, numbers don’t lie. Calvin Peete is the most accurate driver of the ball in PGA TOUR history. For 10 seasons, from 1981-90, he hit an astounding 81.59% of fairways, with his most accurate year coming in 1983 (84.55%). 


And if you saw our 14 For 14 article on Peete last month (which we thought was cleverly named because he won The Players at 14-under-par and if you hit every fairway on a par 72 course, that’s 14/14, but I digress), then you know Peete only hit one ball out of bounds throughout 1,200 rounds on the PGA TOUR. That’s crazy! I know guys who hit six balls OB on 12 holes. 🤦🏿‍♂️


As one of the most accomplished black golfers in the sport’s history, Peete competed in 26 majors, making 23 cuts and tallying 13 top-25 finishes along the way. Among those majors were eight trips to The Masters, where Peete never missed a cut. Given his prowess for driving the golf ball and the notoriously demanding tee shots at Augusta, it’s no surprise that his consistency off the tee translated to success. 


Peete had a game and a style all his own – notably marked by the kangol hat he adorned for every round. In the 1985 Masters, he arrived at the course in a pair of tailored evergreen side-tab trousers to pay homage to the venue. He topped off the ultra-clean fit with a crème kangol, a hairline-striped polo and classic brown leather shoes (see picture below)


Calvin Peete’s 12 PGA Tour wins rank him second all-time among African-American golfers. He also made more cuts at The Masters (8) than any black golfer not named Tiger Woods. Peete passed away in 2015 at the age of 71.


Key Facts About Calvin
Led the PGA TOUR in driving accuracy for 10 consecutive seasons;
Won 12 times on the PGA TOUR;
Won the 1985 PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass;
Thrice top-5 on the money list;
Won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average in 1984;
Member of the 1983 and 1985 U.S. Ryder Cup Team;

It's Your Swing 

From the rolling hills of North Carolina to the fairways of Augusta, Jim Thorpe's journey to the Masters was as unconventional as his swing. Born the ninth of 12 children, Thorpe’s father was a greenskeeper for 60 years. That gave him access to golf at an early age, something many of his peers didn’t have back then, but his family could still not afford lessons or tee times. 


“I just picked up a club and started swinging,” Thorpe is on record saying.


The result? He crafted a swing as unique as the man himself. Another tour pro with a one-of-a-kind swing was once described as “an octopus falling out of a tree.” Thorpe’s octopus jumped out of a plane if that’s the case.


Regardless of what his swing looks like, you can’t argue with the results. There in lies a valuable lesson: Work with what you have, to overcome what’s in front of you. With three PGA TOUR victories and over 13 senior wins to his name, Thorpe's legacy in the game is undeniable. He competed in six Masters, making the cut three times and earning top-25 marks once. Known for his unmistakable strawhat later in his career, that year, he showed up and showed out with tailored evergreen flare-bottom pants, all-white leather shoes, a music stripe polo and matching green kangol hat (see picture below)


Thorpe faced challenges away from the course later in life, but he bounced back to compete on the PGA TOUR Champions. Since then, he’s established the Jim Thorpe Junior Invitational, one of the premier annual events for elite minority golfers in the junior, collegiate and professional ranks.


Key Facts About Jim Thorpe

Won three times on the PGA TOUR and 13 times on the PGA TOUR Champions;
His best finish in a major was T4 at the 1984 U.S. Open;
His self-taught swing is one of the most recognizable in all of golf;
He’s the son of a lifelong greenskeeper, giving him access to the game as a child;
Founder, Jim Thorpe Invitational;


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