While Tiger Woods is certainly the most famous Black figure in the sport of golf today, credit should given to several pioneers before him. Calvin Peete, who was the most successful Black PGA Tour player before Woods, died last Wednesday.
Peete was born July 18, 1943 in Detroit, Mich. As a young boy, he picked beans and corn in the fields of Florida to aid his family. Earning enough money to buy a station wagon, Peete sold food to migrants in Rochester, New York. At the time, golf had become a focus for his friends and they urged him to play although he took little interest in the sport. His mindset changed once he discovered how much he could earn per year.
At 24, he taught himself the game, but there was one problem. Peete broke his elbow as a child and it never set properly so he couldn’t fully extend his left arm. Amazingly, the injury didn’t have much of an effect on his swing, which was said to be one of the most accurate drives in the sport. For 10 years, he led the PGA Tour in driving accuracy.
Peete was the fourth Black player to win on the PGA Tour behind fellow pioneers Pete Brown, Charlie Sifford, and Lee Elder. He earned his tour card in 1975, and won his first tournament in 1979. That year, he made $122, 481 to land 27th on the earnings list.
By the time he retired, Peete had 12 PGA Tour wins and combined earnings of $3.2 million. Although he never won a major title, Peete finished in the top 10 four times in his career.
Peete is survived by his wife Pepper, their two daughters and five children from his first marriage.
He was 71.