Calvin had humble beginnings, overcame adversary, and a handicapped arm to become a major PGA winner 12 times.
Humble Beginnings for Calvin Peete
Born in 1943 in Detroit, Michigan, the youngest of nine children to Dennis and Irena Peete. A few years later, Calvin and his father moved to Pahokee, Florida, where Calvin was picking beans and fruit for $10. a day. It was back-breaking work in the hot sun of Florida. Calvin was determined to better himself and figured a job making boxes would at least get him out of the blistering Florida sun.
He noticed vendors were selling merchandise out of their cars to the migrant workers. That would suit him fine, and with help from his grandmother, he bought a 1956 Plymouth and became a vendor up and down from Florida to New York for the next couple of years. making about $300 per week. While visiting with friends in Rochester, New York, as they were going golfing, they told him, either wait for them or pick a club and join them.
This would be the day that changed Calvin's life forever. He had always thought golf was for sissies, but something magical happened when he picked up a golf club. Calvin had broken his elbow in three places at the age of twelve, and he could never straighten his elbow again. Playing his first full round of golf, he hit an 87, but within a short time, he was shooting par. He fell in love with the game and began reading instruction books from Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Jack Nicklaus.
Hard Work Would Finally Pay Off
From the moment Calvin felt he was meant for golf, he began to watch golf on TV and saw Nicklaus win and received a substantial amount of winnings. He then picked up instructional books by Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Nicklaus. Practicing every moment he could until his hands were bleeding. He would hit golf balls, retrieve them, and then hit them again. By chance, one day, an employee in the pro shop noticed how he held his club and offered to show him how to grip the club. Even with his bent arm, he knew he was getting better.
It might have been significant that Calvin's arm was a handicap. Was it possible that it somehow perfect how he was able to hit every fairway straight? Calvin would go on to perfect his swing with such accuracy that he earned the nickname "Mr. Accuracy."
In 1975 Calvin earned his PGA Tour card at 32 after failing the first two attempts. He believed he was on his way. Playing with Charles Sifford one day, Sifford told him how he was to eat somewhere but not in the clubhouse. Segregation and racism were still around even then.
Tiger Woods never personally met Peete, but he said, "Calvin didn't miss a fairway for two years. His accuracy is a legend." At some point on his first PGA Tour, Calvin returned to Detroit, Mi, to get his GED diploma. He knew the value of education, and it was a requirement to play on the Ryder Team.
Timeline of Calvin Peete's PGA Record
- 1975 Earns his PGA Tour Card
- 1979 Wins the Greater Milwaukee Tournament
- 1980 Wins Players Championship
- 1980 Plays on Ryder Cup Team
- 1982 Tied for PGA Championship
- 1983 Plays on Ryder Cup Team
- 1984 Wins Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average
- 1985 Wind Players Championship with a score of 274
- 2002 Inducted into African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame
- 2005 Inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame
- 2019 Nominated to the World Golf Hall of Fame
Calvin won 12 times on the PGA Tour, five of those wins by five or more shots. From 1981 to 1990, he led driving accuracy for ten consecutive years. Since 1980 only three players have led the PGA in driving and greens in regulation, and all three belong to Calvin. At the time, he was the second African American ever to play the Masters. Dolphus "Golf Ball" Hull was one of the caddies he used.
Calvin Peete Foundation
A long-time friend of over forty years, Walter Burge, founded the Calvin Peete Foundation dedicated to further sports among the youngsters in the community. Calvin had retired to Florida and was very active with the youth and golf. The Calvin Peete Foundation is located in Atlanta, Georgia, 316-926-4075, calvinpeetefoundation.org.
Calvin died in 2015 at the age of 71 and his burial is unknown. He will always be remembered as an inspiration to all. Calvin remarked he wanted to be remembered "as the world's straightest ball hitter and that he played with the very best in golf."
It's safe to say he got his wish.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on April 10, 2021:
Peggy, thanks for your visit. I bet your husband is watching theMasters.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2021:
I do not follow golfing as much as my husband does. He has probably heard of Calvin Peete, but I will forward this to him in case he does not know the back history of his success.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 09, 2021:
I’ve never heard of Calvin Peete. Thank you for sharing his interesting and very inspiring story, Fran.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on April 06, 2021:
Pamela99, thank you so much for your visit. Yes, he was a remarkable man and a pacesetter.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 06, 2021:
Calvin Peete is a remarkable man. His determination to succeed resulted in a wonderful career. This is a very interesting article, Fran.