Golfers hone shorts game in PGA prac­tice rounds

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JAMES MCCARTEN

“In my prime,” Jack Nick­laus once wrote, “my legs were very strong.” That was true in more ways than one, it turns out: in 2014, Golf Di­gest pub­lished ne­ver­be­fore-seen photos of the even­tual 14-time ma­jor win­ner prac­tis­ing in shorts, show­cas­ing a well-mus­cled pair of tree-trunk legs “more be­fit­ting an NFL full­back than the great­est golfer of all time.” If not for those photos, taken back in 1970 by a star-struck as­sis­tant club pro, the golden gams of the Golden Bear might have never seen the light of day — in those days, the sight of a bare-legged tour­ing pro was about as wel­come as tin­foil on a toothache. Times, al­beit at golf ’s typ­i­cally glacial pace, are in­deed chang­ing. The in­ter­net col­lapsed in parox­ysms — the golf part of the in­ter­net, any­way — when the PGA of Amer­ica broke with decades of tra­di­tion and al­lowed play­ers to wear shorts dur­ing their prac­tice rounds at this week’s PGA Cham­pi­onship, the fourth and fi­nal ma­jor of the year. “Love the shorts,” Mas­ters cham­pion Ser­gio Gar­cia said Wed­nes­day, echo­ing a host of other play­ers who want to see the prac­tice adopted by the PGA Tour, which or­ga­nizes and or­ches­trates most of the reg­u­lar North Amer­i­can events play­ers com­pete in each week. “I don’t know why the PGA Tour is wait­ing to make a de­ci­sion on it, but I love it — I think it’s great,” Gar­cia said. “We get to show a lit­tle bit of skin and be a lit­tle bit cooler, so it’s good.” Whether hairy and bare or clad in plaid, golfers seem to have a thing about their legs. They’re a tremen­dous power source in the golf swing — just ask Nick­laus. Coun­try clubs are famous for lim­it­ing how much leg skin should be show­ing. And fans of John Daly know all about “bad golf pants,” a phrase that yields nearly 2 mil­lion hits on Google. The golf course “has al­ways been a place where guys could ex­per­i­ment with what they were wear­ing,” said Mike McAl­lis­ter, who writes a blog about golf fash­ion at cha­peaunoir­golf.com. “My dad al­ways wore a suit to work — very con­ser­va­tive, gov­ern­ment job — but then when he played golf on the week­ends, he’d break out the plaid pants and the ca­naryyel­low shirt and off he’d go. It was al­most like, ‘OK, I can re­lax a lit­tle bit and have a bit of fun,’ and that’s what it should be.” Old-timey golfers in Scot­land fa­mously wore ties, tweed coats and “plus fours” — funky, baggy trousers, long favoured by Tintin and Payne Ste­wart, that showed off splashy socks by stop­ping just four inches be­low the knee. Golf ’s mod­ern-day taste for brash, bold be­low-the-waist state­ments is di­rectly linked to that plus-four legacy, McAl­lis­ter sur­mises. So, too, is the long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of dress­ing up to play golf: slacks and col­lars and pol­ished wingtip shoes in­stead of jeans, sweats and sneakers. “I think back to when I used to go to the Cana­dian Open in the mid-1980s with my dad, and you’d see all these guys in these great gar­bar­dine pants, and you’re like, ‘Wow, these guys re­ally have it to­gether,’ he re­called. “They look pro­fes­sional when they wear trousers, and that was al­ways kind of a cool thing ... there’s that sort of mys­tique about it. But at the same time, I think we’re get­ting past that. You can look good in a pair of shorts; it is pos­si­ble.” No mat­ter the time of year or the tem­per­a­ture, some golfers refuse to wear shorts, pre­fer­ring to pro­tect their bare legs from the sting of mos­qui­toes, the tor­ment of the sun or the re­lent­less and un­for­giv­ing gaze of fel­low golfers anx­ious to make “white stakes” jokes. Hap­pily, a num­ber of ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ers have obliged with ul­tra-light­weight slacks made of stretchy, breath­able, mois­turewick­ing fab­rics so cool and com­fort­able that you’ll be dou­ble-check­ing later in the day to make sure you’re still wear­ing them. Just watch Dustin John­ston, the big-hit­ting No. 1 player in the world, stalk the fair­ways of Quail Hol­low this week. That peace of mind, that swag­ger, that con­fi­dence doesn’t come from his dis­tance off the tee or hav­ing Wayne Gret­zky as a fa­ther-in-law. No, pretty sure it’s the pants. “They’re in­cred­i­bly com­fort­able, nice and light­weight, great fit, and that’s a Utopia state­ment right there — that’s re­ally what we’re look­ing for,” said Les­ley Hawkins, the gen­eral man­ager of Adi­das Golf, the ap­parel spon­sor for a num­ber of mar­quee play­ers, in­clud­ing John­ston, Gar­cia and Justin Rose. “We have very quickly — around Canada and now through­out North Amer­ica — be­come the No. 1 bot­toms in golf.” The shorts are more pop­u­lar than the ful­l­length pants, a fact that re­flects the tastes and ten­den­cies of the recre­ational golf mar­ket, Hawkins added — a trend that she be­lieves golf ’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies would be wise to ac­knowl­edge. “Some of the tem­per­a­tures that these (pro) play­ers play in on a reg­u­lar ba­sis are re­ally quite re­stric­tive, and it’s good to see the or­ga­ni­za­tion be more re­flec­tive of the trends that are in the mar­ket­place,” she said. “I think that’s pos­i­tive for the game, for sure, be­cause guess what? Every­body this week, in all me­dia out­lets, is talk­ing about the PGA Cham­pi­onship and shorts. It’s a great con­ver­sa­tion for the game of golf.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Dustin John­son hits a tee shot dur­ing a prac­tice round at the PGA Cham­pi­onship

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