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Woods laments passing of black pioneer players

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods said during his news conference Tuesday that Calvin Peete and Pete Brown were part of a generation of African-American players he wished he had gotten to know better.

Peete, the most successful black PGA Tour player before the arrival of Woods, died last week at 71. Pete Brown, another pioneer of color on Tour, also died last week at 80. Brown was the first black man to win a PGA Tour event. He made history winning the Waco Turner Open in 1964, three years after Charlie Sifford broke the color barrier.                                                           

“I never really got a chance to spend any time with [Calvin], and our paths never really crossed,” Woods said. “I never met Pete. Circumstances never allowed that, but Charlie [Sifford] became a grandpa to me, and I named my son after Charlie. Lee [Elder], obviously, our paths crossed, but for some reason a couple guys throughout history – Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller and all those guys that I wish I would have gotten a chance to meet and a chance to talk to – I never really got that opportunity.”

Woods was asked if there’s a danger losing the memories of an era of black pioneers.

“My struggles weren't, obviously, anywhere near what they had to endure,” Woods said. “I didn't have those struggles when I was trying to get on Tour, but I certainly can relate to when I was a kid, and the things that I had to endure, just to try and play golf. I wasn't allowed to play at certain places. That part I can understand and I can relate to.

“I honestly believe that we don't have any African-Americans out here playing on the Tour, or even a lot on the mini tours, is because of the advent of the golf cart. That took away a lot of the caddie programs and the introduction to the game of golf, so they never got out of the urban areas. They stuck more to basketball, baseball – even baseball has declined a lot – football. That's kind of where it all went to. So they never had that introduction, never had the caddie programs during the summer where you'd go out and loop two, carry 36, hit a few balls here and there. At least you got introduced. You got to watch it, simulate it, you got to be around it. That's all gone.”