PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — Calvin Peete turned his life around on the pro golf tour.
"If it hadn't been for golf, I'd probably still be peddling jewelry or be in the sugar mills somewhere," he said.
As it is, he's a respected, highly successful practitioner of a sport for which he has two handicaps, his color and his left arm.
Peete is black. And there have been only a few black players--Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder are the most prominent--who have made a success of professional tournament golf.
His left arm is permanently bent, the result of a fall from a tree as a child. It is one of golf's most hallowed rules that the left arm must be kept straight during the swing.
Still, he has become golf's most accurate player. He has led the tour in driving accuracy for the last four years. In three of those years, he has led in greens hit in regulation. Last year, when he went past $1 million in career earnings, he also won the Vardon Trophy for the low-scoring average in golf. Since 1982, he has won more tournaments (10) than any player.
The latest was a win Sunday in the prestigious Tournament Players Championship. With the victory, Peete gained a 10-year exemption from qualifying on the tour.
All of this from a man who was one of 19 children, who left school at an early age to scrabble at odd jobs, who once peddled jewelry from the trunk of his car to migrant farm workers, who did not hold a golf club in his hand until he was 23, who did not gain his playing rights until 10 years ago, when he was 31.
Since then he has acquired a high school diploma and most of the honors golf can bestow.
And, at 41, he's at his peak.
"It's a young 41," he said.
"Most guys, at this age, have been playing golf for 30 years. They're getting tired. I'm still excited about it, still delighted in it. I'm looking forward to another 10 years.
"I have a lot of confidence in what I can do. I can play my game. I feel that I have a chance to win on any golf course I set foot on.
"I wanted to win $1 million and a major tournament. Now I've done that. Now I want to win more majors and another $1 million. I have confidence I can do that."
D.A. Weibring, who chased Peete to the TPC championship, agreed.
"The man is a machine," he said. Add up all the superlatives, and there he is."