Bradley brings Jordan-brand shoes to the course

By Jason SobelAugust 28, 2014, 12:05 pm

“It’s gotta be the shoes, Mike!” – Mars Blackmon

Basketball has always been Michael Jordan’s domain, but shoes are his empire. His last name is synonymous with his brand, one that has only grown in popularity since his retirement. It extends well past the boundaries of the court. There’s a story from a few years back about Jordan starting his own motorsports team. Rather than have the riders wear inappropriate footwear or another brand, he simply urged his design team to create shoes to meet their needs. Two weeks later, they were wearing them.

As an avid golfer – one who pals around with PGA Tour stars and has even served as a United States assistant team captain in the Presidents Cup – he’s brought his brand to the links, too. That’s right: When Michael Jordan plays golf, he wears – what else? – Jordans, even though there is no Jordan golf shoe on the market.

Hey, it’s good to be the boss.

It’s also good to know the boss. Keegan Bradley is one of those PGA Tour stars who has parlayed professional success into a burgeoning friendship with the six-time NBA champion. During one of their many South Florida rounds last year, Bradley sidled up to his iconic buddy, looked down at his feet and told him he wanted a piece of the action.

“I said to him, ‘I don’t have a shoe deal, so I’d love to wear Jordans,’” Bradley recalls. “And he was like, ‘You know what? I’ve been thinking about making shoes. That would be awesome.’”

It wasn’t that easy, though. Not even close. Jordan’s shoes didn’t quite meet the standards of an elite golfer with three career victories already on his resume.

“They were more of an amateur’s shoes,” Bradley says with a laugh. “He goes, ‘Let’s start this over. We’re going to get my crew on it and do it from top to bottom.’”

Enter Mark Smith.

The creative director of special projects for Nike Innovation, he's been with the company since 1989, combining both art and industrial engineering into creating original footwear.

“My favorite aspect of this job,” Smith says, “is getting those unique, out-there, fringe-related projects that challenge the status quo.”

This one qualified. After receiving a call from Jordan, he and Bradley together began designing golf shoes from scratch that would offer optimal performance for the pro golfer.

As anyone understands who’s witnessed him stutter-step to approach his ball in the fairway or examine it cockeyed on the green, Bradley can be a pretty quirky guy. That extends to his spikes, too.

“I’m super-particular about my shoes,” he says, “and once Mark’s team got me going, I got even more particular. At first I felt bad, but then I realized that’s what they really want. They want every little critique, every little minor detail – even down to the shoelace length. 

“It’s like they’re building a car from scratch. It’s nuts.”

Smith meticulously measured the weight of Bradley’s shoes. The height. The kickpoints. And yes, even his feet themselves, which proved to be a significant variable.

His left foot is a size 10 3/4 EE. His right foot is an 11 1/2 EEE. His arches are more forward than those of most people. And he owns some, well, unique characteristics.

“He has the ability to raise his toes, but limited mobility in his ankle,” Smith explains. “He’d been cramming his toes into shoes. As soon as we tried other stuff on him, that freed up his feet. It’s a very unique situation, where we build our shoes around his feet.”

At first, there was just one pair. A white pair of Jordans built specifically for golf and even more specifically just for Bradley. Once he’d worn them for a while, Smith sent another pair and then tore apart the originals, doing a complete forensics test on the impact from his feet.



The experimentation continued from there, a trial and error process that became more finely tuned with each pair that was produced. And there have been plenty, as Bradley estimates he now owns “at least 40” pairs of Jordan golf shoes, with more being delivered seemingly every week he plays.

The performance aspects of these shoes still receive periodic tweaks in an attempt to unearth what Smith calls “the perfect pair,” but he’s also employed his artistic background to add some flair to the newer models. This includes fashioning Bradley in footwear with the Jordan brand’s patented “elephant print” amorphic design, which is comprised of various words to help tell his own personal story.

Newer models have included his parents’ names, references to him winning the PGA Championship and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award and some of his favorite Jordan phrases.

“He always tells me: ‘Kill or be killed’. I put that one on there. It’s very MJ," Bradley says.

Meanwhile, Bradley is starting to become nearly as synonymous with the shoes as the man for whom they’re named after.

“Everyone has an opinion – they either love ‘em or really hate ‘em,” he says. “There are a lot of big Jordan guys out here on Tour who love ‘em. There are also guys who think they’re ridiculous and I look stupid. But I think that’s great. Any sort of commotion you can cause is really good.

“Of all the stuff I’ve done, the most recognition I get from fans is about my shoes. It’s insane. Every hole, somebody says something.”

All of which leads to one logical question: What does the man whose name is represented in the shoes think about this development?

“Being creative is all about energy,” Jordan says. “This is how I feel when we talk golf. Working with Mark and Keegan inspires my creativity.”

Those words are akin to a blessing from the pope – the pope of athletic footwear, at least.

Jordan has long known the secret to success, one which he’s now passed down to Bradley. Except there’s not much of a secret. As Mars Blackmon shouted long ago: It’s gotta be the shoes.

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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”