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Fashion and etiquette tips from a sports writer's wife and sometimes golfer

KVV note: Watching the U.S. Open has become something of an annual tradition in our little household, although it's probably more accurate to say that I watch the golf while my wife Jen critiques the on-course fashion. After years of not-so-subtly suggesting that I write about why so many players wear such ugly outfits, or sour-puss their way through post-round interviews, I extended an invitation to her -- a casual golfer and even more casual golf fan -- to offer her fashion and etiquette tips and pet peeves. Jen, the tee is yours.  

My husband and I started a tradition four years ago of watching the U.S. Open together. I had never particularly enjoyed watching golf, having only played the game for a few years. That started when Kevin and I began dating and he informed me that he and his family were golfers. It would be nice, he suggested, if I was, too. So I gave it a try. Combining the hand-eye coordination I had honed during years of playing field hockey in high school with the few tidbits I picked up during a single golf lesson in May of 2002, I debuted my golf game a week or two later at Kevin's sister's graduation in upstate New York. If I remember correctly, I used a 7 iron for everything but putting that day.

So I was never particularly inclined to snuggle up on the couch with Kevin and watch five or six or 10 or 12 hours of golf coverage in a single day let alone four days straight. But in June of 2007, I was inexplicably sick. I spent nearly a month doing nothing but drinking Vitamin Water and going to doctors' appointments. So I found myself without many other options when Kevin turned on the U.S. Open that year. While he tried to teach me a bit more about the game he had grown up playing, I entertained myself by providing color commentary on the players. I pointed out the cuties. (Hello, Adam Scott.) Critiqued the bad pants. (Hello, Bubba Watson.) Criticized the crazy sunburns. (Hello again, Mr. Watson.) And a tradition was begun.

Since then, I have picked up a few more golf skills along the way, although nine out of 10 of my chip shots veer off in some unplanned direction. I still play mostly one week a year -- during my husband's family's annual reunion in Canada, just north of Glacier National Park. I happily admit that I enjoy the nature and time with my family as much -- or more -- than I do the actual golf. There are, after all, mountain vistas and wildflowers and deer and the occasional grizzly bear to be spotted on the course. But I do honestly enjoy watching a little golf every now and then with the husband. It almost always reminds me of Angel Cabrera's big win that day in 2007 at Oakmont Country Club. "How in the world is he allowed to smoke on the course?!?" I recall squawking repeatedly to my husband that Sunday.

Thankfully, that has changed. Other questionable aspects of professional golf -- fruit punch-colored shirts and unhealthy sunburns, for instance -- have not. So in honor of the final two rounds of this week's U.S. Open -- and at my husband's request -- I offer my completely sports-free Top Five Tips to the U.S. Open players from the wife-of-a-sportswriter and casual golf fan.

1. Think twice -- or maybe even four times -- about wearing white pants. Seriously. Almost no one who weighs more than 130 pounds looks good in white pants. Exceptions can be made for very fit Australians who also are fond of wearing white belts and white shoes with their white pants. Yes, I'm talking about you again, Adam Scott. Carry on.

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2. I understand the need to wear a hat or a visor when you play golf. Really, I get it. And I understand that all the time you spend outside in that hat or visor can make for some pretty vicious tan lines. But for the love of all things decent, don't take off the hat then. Not when you get interviewed between holes. Not when you wave to the fans at the end of the round. Never, ever in front of the cameras in public. It's just creepy. And it looks like you're wearing a mask. One suitable alternative would be a little self-tanning cream. Ask your girlfriend/wife/sister/teenage daughter. She'll help you.

3. Don't be afraid to wear something a little different. I will forever remember Aaron Baddeley's patchwork-style pants from that first U.S. Open that I watched. (I'll have you know that he led after the third round in that tournament, thank you very much.) And Phil Mickelson never looked better than the day he wore that brown polo shirt and those sharp brown and cream striped pants. Different, however, does not mean those crazy Darth Vader sunglasses that were barely acceptable when my 90-year-old grandmother wore them at her doctor's suggestion. It doesn't mean a matchy-matchy shirt and pants combo that would put a set of identically outfitted bridesmaids to shame. It doesn't mean pants the the color of fruit punch or anything neon or something that will give the good people watching at home a headache. And while we're talking about colors, here's one more tip: It's not your fault. And it's not fair. But at this point, wearing red makes it look like you think you're Tiger Woods on Sunday. Do you really want to be that guy? So tuck those red shirts at the back of your closet and wear them for practice. Or, given Tiger's recent history, maybe just donate them to Goodwill.

4. Don't be afraid to bring your wife and kids. Or your significant other. Or show off some other personal aspect of yourself. For those of us who aren't entirely captivated by every single stroke of the game, it's nice to know a little about you as we watch you make your way around the course. The TV commentators, it seems, talk a bit more about your cute kids and your lovely wife and the few interesting tidbits they know about your life off the course when they have a little footage to cut to of your family standing by in the stands at the 18th green waiting for you. It's more fun to cheer for someone who isn't just a golfer. I love rooting for Phil because he hugs his wife after every single round that she attends. Swedish golfer Henrick Stenson became one of my favorites when he won the Tour Players Championship in 2009 and the commentators couldn't stop talking about his female caddie, Fanny Sunesson. (His favored position in my eyes was eternally cemented when those adorable little kids of his came scampering across the green after his victory.) And I confess that I developed a bit of a soft spot -- albeit a short-lived one -- for Tiger the year that Nike ran that darling ad of baby golf clubs being delivered to his house in anticipation of the birth of his daughter.) Maybe all of this means that I'm just a sucker for successful advertising and an emotional sap. That's partially true. But I also think it means that if I'm going to sit inside on a perfectly lovely day and cheer for professional golfers, I want to feel like they're real people and that I know a wee bit about them beyond their current position on the leader board.

5. Lastly -- and I know this could qualify as a complaint of sportswriters across the globe regardless of the sport they cover -- say a little something when the TV folks stick a microphone in your face and ask how the round is going. I know that football players rarely say anything interesting when interviewed on the sideline at the half. I know that basketball players can barely hear the questions asked of them let alone offer up a good answer when a reporter catches them on the way into the locker room. But golf just seems so much more civilized and genteel than those very physical sports. There's no pushing and shoving as part of the game. There are no fouls. There are rarely bloody noses and bruises and concussions in golf. So it seems so much more rude when a golfer treats an on-air reporter with disdain during those quick TV interviews. (I think we all know who I'm talking about, Tiger.) The reporters aren't asking how it's going because they want to know what you thought of that last round. They're asking because we want to know. No one embodied this philosophy better than Rory McIlroy when he was interviewed after his heartbreaking final round at the Masters this year. He was honest. He was real. He didn't offer up canned soundbites. And as a result, my heart just melted for him. I will root for him, at some level, in every tournament in which he plays for the rest of his life.

Rory and, of course, Adam Scott.

--Jennifer McMenamin is a former Sun reporter. Her short game is the only thing about her that's lacking, according to her husband.

Photo: Orlando Sentinel

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