Wearing shorts causes a stir in professional golf


Before you read this column, allow me to make a confession: I'm not wearing any pants.

Oh, come on. It's not what you're thinking. I've got shorts on. And no, those aren’t a couple of OB stakes under my desk.

Shedding leggings is a relevant topic this week, as the eight Turkish Airlines World Golf Final competitors were given an option and half of ‘em sold short on wearing long pants, instead showing off their chicken legs in Turkey.

Those who chose to go out on – and with – a couple of limbs provided observers with the naked truth. Seeing a pro golfer in shorts is sports' version of Scooby Doo and the gang unmasking a criminal. 'Oh, so that's who was really under there!'

The exhibition served as a stark contrast to the PGA Tour, where earning membership is like an invitation to the Pants Party.

Why can’t competitors show some leg in professional tournaments? The reigning rationale is that it looks unprofessional. Try using that excuse on your favorite lifeguard, UPS driver, mailman or NBA player. At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, those guys all do it with their shorts on.

So, too, do golfers. From juniors to collegians to amateurs of all levels, brandishing gams is part of the game. Even the pros get a leg up – when nobody’s watching. Phil Mickelson was photographed practicing at The Olympic Club this year in Bermuda shorts that looked a bit Bermuda rough. Last year, Tim Petrovic qualified for the U.S. Open in a pair of cargos that had more zippers than his golf bag.

When the cameras are on and the fans are behind the gallery ropes, though, there is no Celebrity Skin, to quote the alternative rock band Hole – obviously fervent golf fans with a name like that.

Irony of all ironies, an Internet search for “PGA Tour + shorts” procures a lengthy list of Size 38 pleated khakis that are currently for sale in the organization’s online store. Just don’t wear ‘em to the first tee the next time you find yourself competing in an event.

“We have no plans to change our policy on player attire,” PGA Tour executive vice president Ty Votaw says on the matter.

Pants are never an issue until a certain woman deems them too confining.

That woman, of course, is Mother Nature, who on any given day can turn up the heat and turn a nice pair of slacks into her own personal Easy-Bake Oven.

Prior to last year’s Viking Classic, longtime PGA Tour member Joe Ogilvie tweeted: “I've got 14 players and we are all wearing shorts during Viking Classic. Any other tour players with me? They can't DQ us all can they?” He followed with another jab: “114 heat index in Jackson, MS today, who are the idiots in long pants this week? Tour pros.”

Such a heated exchange from any player would have raised eyebrows, but it meant even more coming from one who fancies himself PGA Tour commissioner someday. Given a chance to cool off, Ogilvie explained his reasoning this week.

“I’m certainly a proponent of it for when we’re in Jackson, Miss., in August. I think that just makes too much sense,” he says. “I get the traditions of the game; I get why we don’t allow it in our full-field events. There’s something about the professionalism that gets lost. Now since I advocated for it in Mississippi, I guess you can call me a hypocrite.”

Or just hot and more than a little bothered.

Even so, the Players Advisory Council member since 1999 doesn’t expect any changes soon – even when temps soar higher than a hacker’s score.

“I think that’s way, way, way down on the totem pole,” he admits. “I don’t think anyone cares.”

It was only 13 years ago that PGA Tour caddies were first allowed to wear shorts – and even that was implemented because of a mistake. Caddying for John Maginnes in the third-to-last group at the sweltering Western Open, Garland Dempsey suffered a heart attack in the middle of Cog Hill’s 15th fairway.

“The Tour thought it was heat exhaustion,” recalls Maginnes, now an announcer for Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio. “So the next week at the John Deere Classic, where it was 400 degrees, the caddies were finally allowed to wear shorts for the first time.”

In professional golf, the shorts story is a short story. This week’s tourney in Turkey is an exception to the rule – or an exhibition against the cruel, as the case may be.

'It’s good fun,” explains Lee Westwood, one of the quartet who partook in the offer. “Something different.'

Just don’t expect it to become a leg-wide sensation.

As for me, I’m still depantsed and loving it. I intend to continue living by Albert Einstein’s theory that stated, “The legs are the wheels of creativity.”

I only ask for one favor. Please stop checking out my OB stakes.