Calvin Peete, the golfer with the uncanny tee-to-green game, did it again Sunday. He won his fourth PGA event of the season by closing with a 65 in the Pensacola Open.
His seven-shot spread over Dan Halldorson and Hal Sutton equaled the largest victory margin of the season. To show that it was no fluke, and the field more than respectable, Tom Watson finished eight strokes back and Jerry Pate nine.
Watson had predicted that Peete was the golfer to beat at Pensacola. "He is a machine," Watson said. "He really doesn't miss many fairways or greens. He's a great player."
Peete's 16-under-par performance at Perdido Bay Country Club moved him from seventh to fourth place in this year's PGA earnings. His $317,361 is by far the most money ever won by a black golfer in a season. Washington pro Lee Elder had had the previous high of $152,198 in 1978, when he won two events. Peete, who is 39, has won five PGA events in his career, one more than Elder.
This week, Peete will make the four-hour drive from Fort Myers, Fla., where he lives with wife Christine, three sons and a daughter, to Orlando for the Walt Disney World Classic, the final official PGA event of the season. If Peete wins the $72,000 prize, his five victories would lead the PGA this season.
The three top earners, Craig Stadler ($446,462), Ray Floyd ($386,809) and Tom Kite ($341,081), will not compete in the Disney, which was a two-man team event until this year.
Starting with the Kemper Open at Congressional where he tied for seventh, Peete has been in the top 10 in seven of his last 12 starts. He won the Milwaukee Open, Anheuser-Busch Classic, B.C. Open and Pensacola Open.
Peete is among the purest ball-strikers. He is about to win his second straight driving accuracy title. His present statistic is .809 -- that is, he finds more than 80 percent of the fairways with his tee shots on par-4 and par-5 holes. He is tied with Peter Jacobsen for the lead in greens hit in regulation at .721. Jacobsen is resting this week so Peete could retain both accuracy titles.
The lone flaw in Peete's great season is that only one of his four tour victories was on network television. He says he will not be satisfied until he wins a major golf tournament. He tied for 10th in the U.S. Open this year; tied for third in the PGA; and tied for 30th in the Masters.
Peete was one of 18 children in his family who worked on his father's Florida farm from dawn to dusk. He quit school in the eighth grade and sold trinkets to migrant workers up and down the East Coast.
On one of the selling trips up North, Peete first began playing golf, at the age of 23, after friends insisted he might like the game. In 1975, after nine difficult years of trying to learn the game and make a living, he earned his PGA Tour card. It was his third try at qualifying school.
"I feel I have the game to win a major," he said after winning the Anheuser-Busch in July. He also said then that the only thing that prevented him from winning more was his putting.
"I've learned how to putt," he said last week. "I still consider myself only a good putter, not a great putter. By the end of my career, I hope to consider myself a great putter."