Calvin Peete leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and is second in number of greens hit in regulation. If the 39-year-old Floridian ever gets full confidence in his putting stroke, watch out.
Peete is one of the hottest players on the golf circuit. Two weeks ago he won the Greater Milwaukee Open, his second tour victory. Last week he tied for the lead heading into the final round at Quad Cities. He shot 72, finished tied for 16th and won $3,100.
Thursday he hit 17 greens in regulation at Kingsmill and shot 66 and trailed first-round leader Bruce Lietzke by one stroke. He followed with 68 today and leads the Anheuser-Busch Classic by two strokes. He has not had a bogey in either round.
Peete, who started playing golf at the relatively advanced age of 23 when friends persuaded him to try the game, is having his best year ever. He is 17th on the money list at $125,436, and should earn a healthy check when the tournament is over Sunday.
"I considered myself a poor putter when I came on tour (in 1975)," Peete said. "Now I'm a good putter, but not a great putter. That's what keeps me from winning two or three tournaments each year instead of one."
Peete grew up with 17 brothers and sisters on a Florida farm. When he was 12, he fell out of a tree and broke his arm in three places. Now he cannot fully straighten his left arm. The result is a somewhat unorthodox pass at the ball, with a short backswing and a pause at the top. The results are extraordinary.
Lee Elder, a fellow black pro, thinks the short swing is one of the things that makes Peete's tee-to-green game so deadly.
"He is one of the best ball strikers I've seen in a long time," Elder said. "His swing is shorter and he can repeat it. He reminds me of Lee Trevino 10 years ago. He's down the middle and around the hole all day long. He's going to be a consistent money winner."
As a teen-ager, Peete sold jewelry to migrant farm workers up and down the East Coast. While in Rochester, N.Y., friends constantly asked him to join them at golf. Peete always declined but finally in 1966 he tried the game.
The only lesson he has ever taken was a short one with renowned teacher Bob Toski; he learned the rest of the intricate game on his own.
Elder observes: "If I had to look at one weak part of his game, it would be putting. I've seen him miss makable putts. That's the reason he doesn't shoot a real low number. But I've never really seen him shoot a real high round. He always keeps the ball in play."
Peete said he does not practice much during tournament week, but if he has some spare time he works on putting. He might spend two hours on the putting green and two more hours at the driving range.
Peete said one of his secrets of controlling the ball so well is "being able to maintain my balance through the ball and not overswinging. I hit much longer now than I was hitting three years ago. Accuracy comes naturally. I give full credit to tempo and rhythm. That's 90 percent of it. And my putting is coming around."