Calvin Peete’s Legacy: Tiger before Tiger

Calvin Peete passed away last week at age 71. Born in Detroit, the African-American man never played golf until into his 20s, having grown up poor. He learned the game while working as a salesman in Rochester, New York, then got good in a hurry, winning his first PGA Tournament three days shy of his 36th birthday in 1979.

He would win four more in 1982, and came close to being the first person of color to win a Major, tying for third at the PGA Championship at 4-under. He won 12 total tournaments on the PGA Tour, the record for an African-American player until Tiger Woods came along. He was also the first African-American man to play for the US Ryder Cup team, doing so in 1983 and 1985.

Peete’s name is on the mind of plenty with The Players Championship  starting Thursday; Peete won the event 30 years ago in 1985 at age 41.  From 1981-1990, he led the PGA Tour in driving accuracy.

“I remember watching him play. I remember watching when he won here and what he did, and certainly, he’s one of the guys I looked up to — a person of color, being able to do it, especially at the time when there weren’t that many out here,” Tigers Woods said of Peete.”Charlie (Sifford) was pretty much done, Lee (Elder) pretty much done, Jim Dent didn’t really come out on the scene. He was kind of here and there. But it was basically just Calvin. For me as a person of color, it meant something to watch him do well.

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