Golf: African-American golf pioneer Calvin Peete dies at 71

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Calvin Peete, the most successful African-American professional golfer on the PGA Tour prior to Tiger Woods, has died at 71 in Atlanta on Wednesday, the PGA Tour said.

Cause of death was not known.

The straight-hitting Peete, who overcame physical hardship as a youngster and took up golf at the advanced age of 24, won 12 PGA Tour events, 11 of them claimed between 1982 and 1986.

His best year was 1982 when he won four tournaments and finished fourth on the money list. His four victories matched Craig Stadler and Tom Watson for most on the tour that year.

Between 1981 and 1990, Peete led the tour in driving accuracy, despite playing with a left arm he could not totally extend because of a broken elbow suffered in a childhood fall.

He was the fourth African-American to win on the PGA Tour, joining Pete Brown, Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder.

"Calvin was an inspiration to so many people," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.

"He started in the game relatively late in life but quickly became one of the tour's best players.

"I can still remember watching Calvin hit drive after drive straight down the middle of the fairway, an amazing display of talent he possessed despite some of his physical limitations."

Peete was a member of US Ryder Cup teams in 1983 and 1985, compiling a 4-2-1 record, won the Vardon Trophy for lowest stroke average in 1984, and in 1985 added the The Players Championship to his wins list.