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Even at 42, Peete Believes That His Best Years Are Still Ahead

April 06, 1986|United Press International

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — Never you mind that Calvin Peete is 42, going on 43. The way he sees it, he's still just a youngster on the pro golf tour.

"Sure, I'm 42, but I feel a young 42," says Peete. "I've been playing competitive golf for only about 13 years so the fire's still burning. I figure I've still got five or six good years left in my game."

Calvin Peete has won so consistently the past four years, it's hard to realize that the man never even played golf until he was 23 years old and didn't join the PGA Tour until he was almost 32.

"I thought the game was silly," Peete recalls of his pre-golf years. "Who wants to chase a little ball around under the hot sun."

But once he gave it a try, Peete was hooked.

"About the time I got started, I saw a tournament on television and learned Jack Nicklaus was making around $200,000 a year chasing that ball," says Peete. "I figured I could be happy with one-third that amount, so I decided to give it a try."

The bucks didn't come all that quick. It took Peete three tries to qualify for the Tour, and the first three years after he did make it, he earned barely $20,000 a year--which didn't even pay expenses.

But he made a major breakthrough in 1979 when, at 36, he won his first Tour event, the Greater Milwaukee Open, and the money has flowed in since.

Peete, who has picked up 11 of his 12 Tour victories in the past four years, has earned nearly $1.9 million as a touring pro, more than $230,000 of that so far this year, and he figures his best years are still ahead.

"When you get to the top, like Jack Nicklaus, where do you go?" asked Peete. "Now me, I'm still on the way up."

After winning at Milwaukee in 1979, Peete went three years before winning again--in the 1982 Milwaukee Open. But he had three more victories that year and has won at least once each year since.

"I like to think that I can go out there and win 10, even 15 tournaments a year," said Peete. "But that's only a dream, and not a realistic one. Nowadays, with so many good golfers out there, you've had yourself quite a year if you can win two or three.

"When this year started, my goal was to win two," said Peete. "My goal now is to win three tournaments this year and if I am successful this week, I'll have to raise that again.

"I think it would be a great year for me to win three. And, why not? I've never played better than I have this year. Right now I'm playing better than I dared hope.

"I'm not the best golfer in the world right now. I'm just on a roll."

Pro golfers often are judged by the number of "major" championships they win. Jack Nicklaus has won 17 of the big four--the Masters, the U.S. and British Opens and the PGA. Calvin Peete has won none.

"My lack of winning any of the major championships has to do with my lack of experience," said Peete. "Most of the courses where I have played in major championships, I have been playing for the first time.

"That's not true for the Masters (held annually at the Augusta National), but the Masters course isn't suited for my game although I feel I can win there if I have a hot hand that week.

"If I never win a major, it won't put a damper on what I feel has been a great golf career."

Peete, who won last year's Tournament Players Championship by three shots with 14-under-par golf, has a different feeling about the TPC course than he does about Augusta with its wide open fairways and huge undulating greens.

"It's a shotmakers golf course," said Peete, who has hit more greens in regulation this year than any other golfer on the tour. "You have to hit good shots to have a chance to score. It requires accurate iron shots and my advantage is I keep the ball in play."

When he won last year's TPC, Peete said: "I've accomplished a lot in this game, but this has to be the highlight. To win on this kind of golf course against the toughest field in golf is quite an accomplishment."

Peete disagrees with those golfers who take a week off to celebrate after winning a tournament.

"I figure you should keep your momentum going," he said. "In this game, you have to get it while you can. When you've got it going, you've got to try to keep it going."

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