Lee Elder, who was the first black player to compete in the Masters, joined Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as an honorary starter ahead of the tournament's 85th staging.
Elder made his debut at Augusta National in 1975 and recorded a best finish of joint 17th in 1979 from six appearances.
The 86-year-old was not able to hit a ceremonial drive on the opening hole but was warmly applauded after being introduced to the spectators by Masters chairman Fred Ridley.
"Today, Lee Elder will inspire us and make history once more, not with a drive, but with his presence, strength and character," Ridley said.
"I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in." – Lee Elder
Nicklaus, 81, and Player, 85, hit drives on the first fairway and with that the Masters was officially underway.
"For me and my family, I think it was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in," Elder said at a press conference alongside Nicklaus and Player.
"It is certainly something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I have loved coming to Augusta National and playing here with many of my friends that are members here.
"My heart is very soft this morning, not heavy soft, soft because of the wonderful things that I have encountered since arriving here on Monday."