Calvin Peete Dead: 12-Time PGA Tour Champion Passes On At 71

Pro golfer Calvin Peete is dead at the age of 71. After winning 12 rounds in the PGA Tour, the golf legend is now putting for the stars alongside Paul Walker and Robin Williams.

Why is Peete famous? He was the most successful black golfer ever known before Tiger Woods came along and started dominating the game.

The golf legend had plenty of obstacles to overcome on his way to the pros, such as a late start in his 20s after having never touched a golf club in his life. Having won his first tournament in 1979, at the Greater Milwaukee Open in his 30s, Peete exploded onto the greens and made a name for himself well into the 90s.

Calvin Peete grew up in south central Florida, in Pahokee, and had dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help feed his family. He was unable to perform any heavy work due to an injury incurred when he was 12-years-old. He had fallen out of a tree and broken his left elbow, leaving him unable to straighten his arm, according to New York Times.

As a golfer, the injury never seemed to stop Calvin Peete. Dead set on playing and having never been trained with a golf club, he learned to compensate for his particular handicap. Ordinarily, with his preferred right-handed swing, you’re supposed to keep your left arm straight, but he developed his own method and defied expectations.

Peete once told the press in 1982 about how he maintained his golfing accuracy.

“I get my accuracy from my tempo and rhythm. 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.”

The infamous Calvin Peete dead shot worked for him in 344 tournaments and got him placed in the top ten 73 times. In 1984, he beat Jack Nicklaus to the Vardon Trophy with a scoring average of 70.56. According to the Washington Post, fellow pro golfer Jeff Sluman told the press, “You couldn’t point as straight as Calvin could hit the ball.”

Peete certainly beat the odds after coming from a less-than-ideal childhood of picking corn and beans in the fields. He even traveled the east coast and sold jewelry, earning the nickname “Diamond Man” for the studs in his front teeth.

On Wednesday, April 29, Calvin Peete was pronounced dead in an Atlanta hospital. The cause of death was undisclosed.

Calvin Peete was of the most surprising golf legends of our time, and now he rests in peace.

[Image via J.D. Cuban / Getty Images]