Golf pioneer Calvin Peete passes away

Ponte Vedra Beach, FL ( - Former Players Championship winner Calvin Peete passed away on Wednesday morning. He was 71.

Peete won The Players 30 years ago and was considered a pioneer who overcame great physical hardship to become a dominant Tour player in the 1980s.

Peete was born July 18, 1943, in Detroit as the eighth of nine children to Dennis and Irenna Peete. He won 12 PGA Tour titles in his career, and of those dozen victories, 11 of them came between 1982 and 1986 -- all the while playing with a left arm he couldn't totally extend because of a broken elbow that occurred during a childhood fall. Peete's elbow healed incorrectly when his doctor didn't properly set the arm in a cast. With his easily recognizable swing because of his permanently bent arm, Peete used uncanny accuracy off the tee to become the fourth African-American to win on Tour, joining Pete Brown, Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder.

"Calvin was an inspiration to so many people. He started in the game relatively late in life but quickly became one of the Tour's best players, winning and winning often despite the hardship of his injured arm," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

Prior to turning pro, Peete learned the game, starting at age 23, at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, N.Y. He was 32 years old when he joined the PGA Tour as a full-time member in 1976 after making his TOUR debut a year earlier. But Peete's ascent as a pro was a slow one. He never finished above No. 94 on the money list in his first three years on the circuit.

"Everyone in the family admired and loved him," said Peete's wife, Pepper Peete. "He took the Peete name to another level. We are so thankful that he was in our lives as a father, husband and role model. He was a blessing, and he will be missed."

Peete's career year was in 1984 when he won the Vardon Trophy for lowest stroke average. His 70.561 average was enough to edge Jack Nicklaus, who finished second. He won a tournament for the third consecutive season, taking the Texas Open by three strokes over Bruce Lietzke.

Peete added two more titles in 1985 with wins at the Phoenix Open and The Players Championship. At TPC Sawgrass, Peete's final-round 66 gave him a three-shot win over D.A. Weibring.