Review by Jason Block
For anyone under the age of 30, if someone says to you “Famous African-American Golfer”, most people would say Tiger Woods. But for people like me, and people a generation older, everyone remembers PGA Tour Champion Calvin Peete. That is why I was very intrigued to read “For Peete’s Sake”, the official biography of the golfer. This book has the official cooperation and participation and cooperation of Mr. Peete and was told to and written by Dolly Ness. It is published by Rushford and Associates.
Peete’s story begs for a biography. He is one of 19 children, from his father’s two marriages and grew up in post WWII Detroit, Michigan. His father was a factory worker, and his mother, Irenia, was a housekeeper. He was born in 1943, and lived a poor boy’s life. He went from Michigan to Hayti, Missouri and got into a lot of trouble. He was a gambler, sharecropper, pool hustler and eventually went to jail for 60 days for a scam gone wrong. But a stop at a golf course in 1966 changed his life forever. He wanted to be like his hero Charlie Gifford, another African-American Golfer. He eventually used his skills as a pool hustler using vectors and angles to hone his golfing skills and eventually become a 12 time PGA Tour winner, winning tournaments from 1979-1986, including the Player’s Championship. He was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome in 1999., which caused him to retire in 2001.
The problem here is not the subject. The problem is the book itself. At a way too short 86 pages, this book feels more like a draft of a bigger book project than an actual finished work. While I give credit to Ms. Ness for trying, her writing style seems a bit unpolished and her conclusions don’t make sense. While I would like to think this book is more than a vanity project, it feels that way. I understand this is her first book, but she took on too big of a subject here. And while I get that Mr. Peete may be too ill for a true autobiography, this doesn’t feel big enough for a man as important as Mr. Peete.
For example, in trying to paint a picture of Mr. Peete’s childhood she recalls a story of how Calvin beat up his cousins after they stole from him many times, she then quotes J.C. Penney thusly: “I would have never amounted to anything were it not for adversity. I was forced to come up the hard way.” She then adds, “Calvin was forced to come up the hard way too.” To me, the quote doesn’t illustrate the point of “adversity”. Calvin did have a hard life, but this quote doesn’t fit the story told.
I would love to see a serious biographical treatment of African-American Golfers in the 20th century from John Shippen in the 1890′s to Tiger Woods today. While Ms. Ness gives the history of the African-American golfer less than one page, I would love to see a serious sports historian tackle this.
For Peete’s Sake is a good effort, and a nice tribute to Calvin Peete. But its short length and lack of depth may turn off serious students of the game.