Paine College announces inaugural Lee Elder Scholars

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Taya Buxton and Devin Smith have been selected as the inaugural recipients of the Lee Elder Scholarships established at Paine College for an athlete on the men’s and women’s golf team.

The scholarships, as well as the creation of Paine College’s first women’s golf program, are funded by Augusta National Golf Club.

Elder was the professional golfer who broke the color barrier at the Masters Tournament, and that fact is not lost on these two young golfers.

“It means everything … this is such an exciting moment for me and my family and for the school. It really means a lot. My parents are super-proud. It’s very humbling,” Smith told News 12.

Buxton said: “It’s a little intimidating, but a great opportunity to help build it and kind of kick start it and be one of the first people on the women’s golf team. I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us.”

They were introduced Wednesday by Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley during a news conference ahead of the Masters Tournament.

“I know this would have been a proud moment for Lee,” Ridley said.

Elder was awarded an honorary doctoral degree for lifetime achievement from Paine College last April, and the scholarships aim to promote opportunities for deserving students through the game of golf, the college said.


“We are excited to welcome two exceptional individuals in Taya and Devin as our inaugural Lee Elder Scholars and know they will be wonderful additions to Paine College and our growing golf program,” said Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones, president of Paine College. “Lee Elder will always hold a special place in our history, and now, through these scholarships, our students will always be reminded of his many contributions to our community. We continue to thank Augusta National Golf Club for their generosity and investment in the future of our students.”

Buxton and Smith will play on the golf teams at Paine College beginning this fall.

“A year after we bestowed Lee Elder with an honorary degree, naming the first recipients of these scholarships is a proud moment,” said Michael L. Thurmond, chairman of the board at Paine College. “We look forward to having Taya and Devin as part of the Paine community and continuing to develop this wonderful scholarship initiative and our golf program with the support of Augusta National Golf Club.”

Buxton, 17 years old, is finishing her senior year at Olentangy Liberty High School in Powell, Ohio, set to graduate with honors. Named captain and most valuable player of her high school team during her senior season, she received the Liberty Coaches Award and was named First Team All-Conference three consecutive years.

“I am honored to be the first women’s Lee Elder Scholar and to play on the first women’s golf team at Paine College,” said Buxton. “Lee Elder was a trailblazer, and it is exciting to be part of building the women’s golf program with my fellow teammates. I am so grateful to Paine College and Augusta National Golf Club for this opportunity and can’t wait for this fall.”

Smith began playing golf at 5 years old with his father while growing up in Bloomingdale, Mich. Aspiring to play competitively in college, he proactively reached out to collegiate golf programs and will join the Paine College golf team in the fall 2022 semester.

“It has been my dream to play college golf,” said Smith. “To play through a scholarship honoring Lee Elder and become the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree means so much to me. I’d like to thank Paine College and Augusta National Golf Club for making this opportunity possible for me and others who will follow.”

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