CALVIN PEETE, A BLACK MAN with a crooked left arm, hit the golf ball straighter than any PGA Tour player of his generation. Peete died on Wednesday in Atlanta. He was 71.
The son of a vegetable picker, Peete didn't try golf until he was 23. He didn't turn professional until the age of 32.
Three days shy of his 36th birthday, Peete won the 1979 Greater Milwaukee Open by five strokes. He went on to 11 more PGA Tour victories, including four titles in the 1982 season.
Peete was the second African American to play in the Masters. He played on the 1983 and 1985 U.S. Ryder Cup teams. (Peete passed a high-school equivalency test in order to represent his country. A high school diploma or equivalent was required.) In 1984 he won the Vardon Trophy, awarded to the PGA Tour player with the lowest stroke average.
When they play the Players Championship next week, it will mark the 30th anniversary of Peete's greatest win. He shot a 66 in the final round at TPC Sawgrass and set a tournament record (14 under).
And, of course, this: Peete led the PGA Tour in driving accuracy for 10 consecutive years.
"I get my accuracy from my tempo and rhythm," Peete told the New York Times during his playing days. "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."
On Wednesday Jack Nicklaus called Calvin Peete "a remarkable golfer" who "overcame a lot of adversity, including a physical limitation, to become a very, very good golfer.
"Over the years, we played a lot of golf together," Jack added, "and I was amazed at what he could get out of his game."
It was also amazing what Peete could get out of a life filled with so many disadvantages.
Read the New York Times obituary by Bruce Weber