Saturday, 2 May 2015


My obit of Calvin Peete is in the Daily Telegraph today, you can link to it here. It's a bit different to the way I wrote it. Usually, when dealing with sports, desks are worried their audience won't understand what's being talked about, but golf, particularly for Telegraph readers, was something I'd thought immune to that. So there was a bit of the technical stuff about golf, and even about the Ryder Cup, which was lost. And interestingly, the idea of a high school equivalency diploma was something of which they'd never conceived.

What was lost was my second paragraph, going into more detail about how Peete was the final bit of the bridge of the post-war struggle for black golfers to compete with whites on the PGA tour. It was lost for space reasons, and here is what I wrote:

Peete also stands as the final link uniting Woods, who joined the PGA tour in 1996, and the half-century of struggle for racial equality in the sport. Competitors in PGA events were, by rule, exclusively Caucasian. When Bill Spiller was barred from an event in California, he and Ted Rhodes, the 1948 US Open winner generally regarded as the first full-time black professional, sued the Association, arguing the denial of work on racial grounds violated the US constitution. The golfers settled out of court, but a verbal promise from PGA president Horton Smith to lift the colour bar was ignored. Not until 1961, under threat from California and other state governments to bar the PGA from public courses, did Charlie Sifford became the first black player on the tour; it was Sifford who taught Tiger Woods' father Earl to play. Pete Brown was the first black man to win a tournament in 1964 but not until 1975 would Lee Elder break the segregation of the Masters; Elder actually played in apartheid South Africa's PGA Championship, invited by Gary Player, four years before he stepped on the course at Augusta.

Peete grew up unaware of this history.

Peete didn't encounter the blatant discrimination even his immediate forebears like Elder did (having to change in car parks rather than clubhouses at some tournaments) but that didn't mean he was fully accepted the way Woods was. But the concentration on Augusta and the Masters was indeed the Telegraph's preference, and part of the description is theirs (the 'genteel racism' is mine).

But Peete's story is really two parallel arcs: the personal struggle and the golfing struggle. There's a movie in that, which might encapsulate some of the changes in American society. And one thing I wanted to mention, but couldn't think of a serious way to do it, was just how perfectly 70s Calvin Peete, and his kangols, always looked on the course. 

No comments :