Calvin Peete stood in the heat and signed his name on every scorecard and visor placed before him. Twenty-three times he signed as the sweat ran down his sideburns, which are par-5 long.
A traditionally torturous climate makes people call the Southern Hills Country Club, host of this 64th PGA Championship, the "Blast Furnace." With the daily temperature in the low 100s, it is weather made for country music, not country clubs.
But Calvin Peete kept signing. Now, the sweat ran in every direction like the errant putts had all day on the 18th green behind him. It was 101 degrees. P-E-E-T-E. It takes time.
"The way I figure it, people are honoring me by carrying my name. I've been thinking about this for a long time. All of this attention is something I've hoped for," Peete said later.
People are starting to notice Calvin Peete. True, the marquee story here is Tom Watson, as he attempts to make his approach shot toward history and Hogan by supplementing his 1982 British Open and U.S. Open championships with his first PGA title. Only Ben Hogan (1953) has won three of the four Grand Slam events in the same year.
True, another major story is the $65,000 first-place prize money and the players who hope to cash it: among the more renowned are Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Kite and even Arnold Palmer, 52, who still dreams about clearing the moss off his 61-victory tour treasure chest and adding his first PGA title.
But Calvin Peete is a story for many reasons. Not only because he climbed to the tour from such hardships and obstacles as poverty, an eighth-grade education and a two-marriage family that included 18 brothers and sisters.
Not only because he worked as a youngster on his father's Pahokee, Fla., farm picking vegetables from 5:30 a.m. to sundown.
Not only because he received his peddler's license at age 17 to sell gold and trinkets to migrant workers from Miami to Rochester, N.Y. He drove a 1956 Plymouth station wagon, made $200 a week and wore two diamonds in his front teeth.
Not only because he didn't take up golf until he was 23, introduced to the sport by some friends while on a selling trip north.
Not only because it took nine pained and persistent years of self-teaching before he earned a PGA Tour card in 1975 at age 32. ("This story has been told many times. I'd rather move on," said Peete with reason, not reflection.)
And not only because he has improved from winning $66,000 over his first three years to winning the Greater Milwaukee Open and Anheuser-Busch Classic and $188,436 (10th best) this year. ("Every field I enter I'm a contender. I'm confident," he says.)
But also, because he is black. The color barrier in golf was broken long ago. Yet the cruel novelty remains.
"The fact I'm black is something I can't hide or something I want to hide," says Peete, who lives with his wife and four children in Fort Myers, Fla. "Being the best black golfer doesn't mean anything because there are so few today. Some people always bring it up, though."
Because people dwell on Peete's past does not mean the man who lived through it has to. When people mention 18, Calvin Peete thinks about the number of holes, not brothers and sisters. "I look forward, not backward. I have paid my dues. It's been a struggle. There were times during the first few years, I thought of quitting. My wife helped me then. Ever since I was a kid I have always jumped from one thing to another. I never stick with things long."
"I'm a young 39 because I haven't been playing long," Peete says. "The way I see it, I have another 10-15 years left."
Even though a disabled left arm (the result of a childhood accident) makes it difficult to follow the golf commandment "keep left arm straight," Peete attempts to swing like Sam Snead. He succeeds. "I read his books. I have learned not to put strain on my back," Peete says.
As the tour leader in driving accuracy, Peete, the player, is the example of the mathematical axiom, "The closest distance between two points is a straight line."
But as a man whose life has been an endurance test of devious diagonals, extending finally from poverty to parity, Peete, the person, has been the exception to the rule. He has gone every which way. Now, he moves only upward.
Jim Thorpe, 33, another of the handful of black players on the golf tour and a man who played today's practice round in Peete's grouping, said, "There will always be barriers for black golfers. But if your game is good, nothing will stop you."
In this instance, Calvin Peete is an exceptional part of the rule, not an exception to it. With a smile that avoided the torture of the heat of both Tulsa and his times, Peete said today, "I believe in myself." Vennari Gains Semis
Joe Vennari of Turf Valley sank an 80-foot chip for birdie on the 18th hole yesterday at Crofton Country Club to defeat Jeff Shumate of Fort Meade, 1 up, in a quarterfinal of the South Atlantic Junior golf tournament.
Vennari advanced to a semifinal match today against Tom Riley of Belle Haven, who defeated Greg Millen of Pennsylvania, 3 and 2. In the other semifinal, Eric Egloff of Manor will face Brian Lehnhard of Evergreen. Both matches are scheduled for 8 a.m.; the final follows at 1 p.m.
Egloff beat Mike Davis of Chambersburg, Pa., 4 and 3. Lehnhard defeated Chris Lindsay, Washington Golf and Country Club, 2 and 1. Hardwick Leads by 1 Special to The Washington Post
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va., Aug. 4--Jay Hardwick of Tearisburg, Va., had six birdies and a bogey for five-under-par 67 today and a one-stroke first-day lead over defending champion Luther Showaker of Leisure World in the $15,000 two-day Mid Atlantic PGA Charles Town Classic at the Sleepy Hollow Golf Club.