Golf has many legends. Men and women who have won the biggest and grandest championships within the sport. Driven competitors with an unrelenting desire to be the very best at what they do. Passion it seems is often discovered at a young age. The fire stoked through adolescence becoming an inferno in adulthood. Sometimes, passion is discovered later in life. The fire quick to light and can burn just as hot as the slow roiling blaze. When I think of legends that caught fire late I think of Calvin Peete.
When I was a young boy, televised golf and my grandfather made up many a Sunday afternoon. I remember vividly the Watson chip in at Pebble Beach. Rooting for Jack whenever he teed it up. Those awesome plaid pants everybody was wearing. Learning about the Hawk and what it means to be a gentlemen with integrity. How watching Arnold Palmer play in person almost caused my grandfather to quit the game entirely….he could never understand hitting it that hard and making it do what you want it to….plainly Arnie was not of this world. Those were the days alright. Bacon was still good for you, secondhand smoke was merely a nuisance, and it was still legal for a kid to ride in the space between the back window and the back seat.
My grandfather knew what segregated life from a first person perspective. Racism was overt and overwhelmingly the prevailing sentiment in his youth. Blacks who played golf, played on “black only” courses usually in the city. Sadly, this is our history. So when Calvin Peete made it…really made it, my grandfather was sure to explain the significance of his success. Not just playing the tour, but dominating for a time winning 12 tournaments in a 7 year span. I learned about his obsession with a game discovered late in life. The work he put into learning his craft, often practicing with bloody hands as the blisters broke exposing tender new skin. Those images permeate an impressionable young mind. I was fascinated by the intensity of my grandfather’s words, almost as if he was there with him. I do know, he was pulling for him and he would get very excited when Mr. Peete was making a run.
I was very sad to learn of Calvin Peete’s death today. By all accounts, he was a gentleman who exuded class and dignity in the way he lived his life. His smile could light up the world, he was that kind of man. It’s funny how a man you never knew, passing on, can have such an impact. Almost as if another link to my own grandfather has passed with him. I wish Mr. Peete a peaceful journey and I hope his family can find solace in how he truly changed the world. Pioneers and legends don’t come cheaply, I hope we continue to revere his accomplishments for generations to come.