ARBOR WEALTH: Calvin Peete, Walmart and Ringo Starr

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“(It’s) here within your reach … if you’re big enough to take it.” — from “It Don’t Come Easy” as performed by Ringo Starr

One of nine children, Floridian Calvin Peete was raised in Pahokee. When he was 12, he fell out of a tree and permanently damaged his left arm. He quit school at 15 and became a farm worker.

 While picking in Pahokee’s fields, Peete noticed that other workers would purchase clothes, jewelry and other goods from mobile sellers. So he borrowed money and bought a 1956 Plymouth station wagon and established a successful East Coast sales route that ran from Florida to New York.

Like Sam Walton, who sold items from his car before buying his first variety store (a Ben Franklin) in Newport, Ark., Peete delivered a needed product directly to his customers. Mr. Walton, as we all know, continued with store expansion. Following his own initial selling success, Peete embarked on a golf career.

Cal Peete never hit a golf ball until he was 23, but became a scratch competitor within 18 months. Working night jobs so he could play during the day, Peete garnered his PGA Tour card on his third try and eventually won 12 tournaments, earning well over $2 million dollars on tour. 

I don’t know much about golf, but the idea that anyone could initiate an activity with that degree of difficulty at age 23, and playing with a permanently crippled arm, could win professional tournaments is … well, it’s incredible. In 1982, Peete earned his GED, which made him eligible for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team.

According to Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell, Peete always followed his father’s simple laborer’s creed: “You want a life, you work for it.” After he began winning, Peete eschewed scores of appearance fee offers, primarily because they cut into his golf regimen. That was inviolate. Peete understood that his fortune and success emanated directly from his playing skills, and he refused to surrender precious practice time in pursuit of an easier dollar.

Where does this connect to investing and the economy?  Establishing inventive entrepreneurial enterprises is as realistic a path to success in today’s economy as is job hunting with a college diploma. Outsourcing, robotics and a general hollowing out of the middle class have left many reassessing their commitment to the traditional path to wealth.  

Walmart today means huge stores with massive inventory and over two million employees worldwide. But at the beginning, before the IPO and before Sam’s Club membership cards, there was Mr. Walton, selling combs and cosmetics and dry goods out of the trunk of his car.  It’s the same combination of vision and grit that lifted Calvin Peete from the vegetable fields to the top of the PGA Leaderboard.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.