Golf is unlike other games. There’s no team, no stadium, no walk-on music, no cheerleaders. It doesn’t really lend itself to casual spectating or frenzied crowds. It’s an outlier, the bookish cousin to the streetwise slickness of the NBA or the rough-edged realness of the NHL. The dress code is part of that. It’s not unreasonable to say that as long as golf requires its players to dress like active seniors it will never be truly cool, no matter how popular it is.
That’s exactly what Nike and its crew of rising golf stars are looking to change.
Standing together at the Los Angeles launch of its latest golf collection, Nike’s newest crop of pros provide a compelling preview of what golf might look like in the not-so-distant future. They sport streetwear-inspired ball caps and high-and-tight barbershop haircuts. Their sneakers are box-fresh and their trousers are rolled up just-so. There’s not a visor or pleat in sight. No one looks like they’ve just come from playing a quick nine at the country club. In fact, they look like they’re headed out to the club. And that’s exactly the point.
For the new collection Nike has its sights firmly set on younger players — guys who play the game, but don’t want to look like they do, a common sentiment held by Nike’s five athletes. Tony Finau, a standout at 6’4” and a rising talent on the links, has been known to golf in basketball shorts. Brooks Koepka played baseball before becoming a pro golfer, and carries himself with an air of dugout swagger. None of these guys are comfortable in the golf attire of yore — they want to look good for the cameras. This being Nike, the clothes are not designed to just make them look good. Here, the shirts, trousers and shoes may be inspired by streetwear, but there’s nothing casual about their design. Nike put all of its prodigious R&D resources — including input from Tiger and Rory — into creating clothes that perform as well as they look. After all, what fun is changing the game if you can’t win it, too?
Bio: Finau grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, turning pro straight out of high school in 2007. It wasn’t an easy call for Finau, who also excelled at basketball (and whose cousin happens to be Jabari Parker). In 2014, after competing on the Web.com Tour, Finau earned his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season. He’s currently ranked second in average driving distance, finishing T-14 and T-10 in the 2015 U.S. Open and PGA Championship, respectively.
Bio: After turning pro in 2009 Lovemark proved himself a formidable competitor straight out of the gate, finishing T-2 in the 2009 Frys.com Open and topping the money list of the 2010 Web.com Tour. This California-born golfer was a standout player at USC, a two-time All-American who took home Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson awards. In addition to four Web.com top-10 finishes, Lovemark finished T-18 in last year’s US Open.
Bio: This 25-year-old Floridian excelled at baseball in his early years, but chose to golf at Florida State University where he was three-time All American. Koepka joined the Challenge Tour in Europe, winning four events before heading home to compete on the PGA Tour. In 2015 Koepka was a top-10 finisher in driving distance, taking home the Phoenix Open title and finishing T-5 at the PGA Championship.
Bio: Pinckney grew up in Utah and rose through the ranks of the amateur circuit alongside contemporary (and childhood friend) Rory McIlroy. Turning pro in 2011, he placed a respectable 19th in the 2012 Sicilian Open before earning his PGA Tour card with a 13th place finish in the Web.com Open two years later. A 66 score led to a distinguished second place tie at last year’s AT&T Byron Nelson, putting him firmly on the list of rising stars of this year’s Tour.
Bio: A two-time All-American, this Indiana native was ranked the number one amateur in the world, tying Tiger Woods for amateur wins. He received the Ben Hogan award before announcing his decision to turn pro. Forgoing his junior year at Stanford to join the PGA in 2015, he broke the million-dollar mark in earnings in his first year.
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