Saturday, June 18, 2011

Golf Courses

In the weeks before the United States Open,Davis Love III received a package from his clothing sponsor, Ralph Lauren, and was startled by one particular item inside: linen pants the hue of Pepto-Bismol. He was told to pair them with a blue-and-white-striped shirt on the first day of play.
Love modeled the trousers for his wife and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
But it was no joke: Ralph Lauren meant to send him those pants the color of Bubblicious. The company was so jazzed about the shade that it sent Webb Simpson a pair too, but in cotton. So, in their blindingly pink outfits of powerful pulchritude, the two of them acted as beacons at Congressional Country Club on a gray, overcast Thursday.
Simpson, who wore a lime green shirt with those pink pants, said he never questions the outfits Ralph Lauren sends him — even if they seem ripped from a page of “The Official Preppy Handbook.” Love, perhaps hardened by the 20-plus years he has on Simpson, is somewhat less pliant.
“They tell me, ‘Look, we sell more pink pants whenever you wear the pink pants,’ and I get that,” Love said of his sponsor. “But I always ask them: ‘Well, who’s going to sell the khaki? I want to sell the khaki.’ ”
The on-course wardrobes of players like Love and Simpson are often scripted by clothing companies at major tournaments like the Open. Each day, those players are given specific outfits to wear, down to the belt and shoes. Sponsors are aware of how much news-media exposure the players — and their fashion choices, good or bad — will get, no matter how they perform.
One day at the Masters this year, for example, Luke Donald wore a pink shirt, Kelly green pants and white visor. And people couldn’t stop talking about it. One British newspaper said Donald’s “pistachio, raspberry and white outfit made him look like a walking Neapolitan ice cream.”
Marty Hackel, the fashion director at Golf Digest, said: “When Luke wore bright colors, everyone was just so upset about it. But golf is an outdoor sport, in the sun and nature. Why do we want to dress like we’re cleaning out the garage?”
Rickie Fowler, who went to Oklahoma State, describes his look as “not exactly the country-club tradition,” looking nothing like Thurston Howell III when he wears head-to-toe orange on Sundays to honor his alma mater. One blogger called him “a traffic cone with hair.”
Bubba Watson also encountered some grief when he decided to wear Travis Mathew military-themed clothes at this Open. His Army green shirt had four stars embroidered over the right pocket and a “B. Watson” patch over the left pocket. His camouflage pants made him look equally stealthy and transparent on the course. For every shirt sold, $10 will go to military outreach, he said.
“Bubba! Are you kidding me with those pants,” the golferArron Oberholser wrote on Twitter. “Might be taking the golf boys/village people thing a bit far.”
The complaints over bright colors or offbeat clothing, Hackel said, are not about preserving a traditional take on the game as much as they are about imposing one’s taste in fashion on others. That’s nothing new.
When the American golfer Johnny Miller was one of the world’s top players in the 1970s, Hackel said, he took some criticism for wearing hey-look-at-me outfits like pants with mammoth black-and-white houndstooth checks.
“People have to dress to their personality,” Hackel said, “and if they are effervescent and enthusiastic, they wear brighter colors than people who are careful and methodical, and nothing is wrong with that.”
He said that someone like John Daly is a good example of one who dresses to his personality, pushing the limit inLoudmouth Golf pants that feature patterns like massive sunflowers and colorful and dizzying checked patterns.
“But his girlfriend wears matching outfits, and they end up looking like a marching band,” Hackel said. “There’s always someone who pushes the limit of fashion too far.”
Some golfers simply feel more comfortable in hipper clothes than, say, pleated khaki trousers and a white polo. Johan Edfors wore a dandelion-colored Puma shirt, white pants and a white engineer’s cap last Thursday and a mostly teal getup on Friday. Edfors describes himself as stubborn when it comes to fashion: if Puma sends him a belt and he doesn’t like the color, he will not wear it.
That intolerance may be a result of having to wear his college team’s uniform at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He said he cringed when he arrived from Sweden and saw the mandatory gear, all baggy clothing fromCutter & Buck, a company that features traditional styles.
“I was in shock because, c’mon, I’m from Sweden, and most people are fashion-conscious over there,” he said. “To me, the way Americans dressed was boring and too big for them. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Ian Poulter of Britain was so fed up with conservative golf clothes that he decided to design his own. In 2004, he wore pants with a British flag print, which prompted angry calls to the R&A, the British equivalent of the United States Golf Association.
Poulter, though, was encouraged by how much attention those pants received. From that success, he started his own golf clothing line, IJP Design, in 2007.
Now he does not have to rely on clothing sponsors. Poulter said he could choose from 16 styles of pants — with Poulter Tartan being the staple — and 30 shirts from his line. He often changes his golf bags to match his attire.
“I wanted to liven up golf and also control what I wanted to wear,” Poulter said, adding that although he wears FootJoy shoes, those shoes are always custom-made to match his outfits. “What I always say is, ‘Look good, feel good, play good.’ ”
Poulter chose his ensembles for the Open weeks before he arrived at Congressional: a red shirt and white pants for Thursday’s first round, followed by a blue shirt and blue tartan pants on Friday. But perhaps those outfits were not quite right.

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