Golf has always been a bit of a stuffy sport, but it has loosened its collar and evolved over time, especially in recent years. 25 years ago, you would never see some young kid running around in an all-orange outfit the Sunday of a PGA Tour event. I’m not so sure you would have seen anyone on any golf course wearing that attire back then (except at Bushwood Country Club, of course), but maybe that wasn’t such a good thing at all in hindsight.
The problem with the game was that it was not very sustainable. It was dealing with an aging population and an inability to generate enough excitement and flair to capture the interests of a new and younger generation of golfers. Then, Tiger Woods burst onto the scene. Finally, some excitement could be associated with the game, which in turn began to bring new people to the game — a much younger crowd. Golf became cool.
For the previous generation of golfers, they must have experienced similar feelings about Woods as I do about Rickie Fowler — annoyed by Woods’ fist-pumps, style, overpowering swing and stature. For Fowler, he may be a nice guy and well-spoken, but I’ve always found the backwards hat and brightly-colored, loud clothing to be quite obnoxious, and somewhat in conflict visibly to what golf is — a gentleman’s game.
As much as I don’t like what Fowler is wearing, his presence is necessary for the sport to grow. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the gallery that follows him around, and take note of how many juniors you see looking on with excitement and interest. I bet you see more juniors following Fowler than you see with Mickelson.
Fowler is a role model for these kids — the next generation of professionals — because they can relate to him. He’s young and has been successful. He’s branded himself quite nicely to (unintentionally?) target a junior golf market that is stereotypically difficult to reach with a “non-action” sport.
Without Woods, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into golf until much later in life, if at all. I would have missed out on the friends I made, the experience of playing at a collegiate level, and all of the other wonderful places and experiences that golf gave me. Without Fowler and his silly attire, there is a new generation of kids that would miss out on the same experiences I had.
It’s funny how something so small and insignificant can hook someone on the game for life, creating opportunities for experiences he/she may never had otherwise — and that’s a very good thing for golf and life in general.