Golf legend Calvin Peete dies at age 71
By Victor Ochieng
Calvin Peete, the racial pioneer on the admired PGA Tour, died in an Atlanta hospital at age 71. The former golfing great is reported to have passed away on Wednesday, April 29. The Professional Golfer’s Association announced Peete’s death, but didn’t disclose the cause.
Although he started his life as a farm worker, he later began a career in golf in his late 20s, eventually becoming the most successful African American golf player. Peete registered 12 PGA Tour wins, becoming a big name long before Tiger Woods came into the picture.
Some of his achievements include winning the Vardon Trophy in 1984 for the lowest scoring average and being among the Official World Golf Ranking’s top ten golfers for several weeks in 1986.
Peete’s success came as a surprise, especially having gone into the game in his late 20s, as opposed to a younger age when most successful players begin.
He started learning golf while in Rochester, New York, having his sessions at a public golf course located in Genesee Valley Park. Peete would later become PGA Tour’s top-ranked driving accuracy golfer for 10 consecutive years.
“I get my accuracy from my tempo and rhythm,” Peete told The New York Times in 1982. “I never really worked for it. It is just something that happened. I just seem to have a good tempo and good control as far as knowing just when to release the club.”
His success and achievements in the game saw him inducted into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Peete’s success has been celebrated widely, particularly because he grew up poor and suffered a broken arm that healed but wasn’t properly set in its place, giving him a permanent crooked arm. But that didn’t deter him. Instead, he focused on his game, training himself and practicing whenever he had free time. And his efforts paid off.
He was also a great, warm person off the golf course, a trait that endeared him to many people.
Jack Nicklaus, a retired professional golfer, remembered Peete:
“Off the golf course, Calvin was a tremendously warm and caring man. I always liked Calvin, and enjoyed a great relationship with him. We always had fun together. Calvin gave so much of himself to the game and to others, and there are countless young men and women whose lives he touched through The First Tee and other organizations, who owe Calvin a debut of gratitude.”
Rest in Peace, Calvin Peete.