The recent debate about whether professional golfers should be allowed to wear shorts might go nowhere, but one man more than most was thrilled the topic came up.
Forrest Fezler, now 66, is a former PGA Tour player who finished second to Hale Irwin in the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and now has a course design and construction business in Tallahassee, Fla.
Yet he is far better known as the man who near the 18th-hole tee box at the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1983 emerged from a port-a-john wearing shorts as a protest.
Last week, Fezler ran into PGA Tour player Brooks Koepka in Tallahassee. “We hadn’t met before,” Fezler said. “I was introduced to him and he says, ‘I know you. You’re the guy who wore the shorts.’
“Who finished second in the U.S. Open two years ago? Nobody remembers. I came in second in the U.S. Open. Nobody remembers that. But Brooks Koepka, he’s 25-years old. Thirty-two years ago, seven years before he was born, I wore shorts, and the first thing he says is, ‘I know you. You’re the guy who wore the shorts.’ On my tombstone that’s probably what it’s going to say.”
Last week at the Abu Dhabi HSCB Golf Championship, the players were allowed to wear shorts in practice rounds and the pro-am. The players took the opening it presented them and began advocating on behalf of wearing them in tournament play, too, both on the European and PGA tours.
Fezler is on board. He said Koepka is, too. “What Brooks was saying is that anything they can do to generate interest in the game is good. Everyone wears shorts playing golf. Who doesn’t? Every time I see guys like Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods and others doing a clinic they’re all wearing shorts.”
Yet Fezler isn’t a proponent of shorts the length of those he infamously wore. “Those were Larry Bird or Tom Selleck-length shorts,” he said. “They were short. A friend of my son’s wanted me to sign a picture of me coming out of the port-a-john on the last hole. I signed it, ‘may this length of short never come back in style again.’”
For the record, Fezler’s protest was unrelated to shorts. It was to protest an incident he and playing partners John Schroeder and John Brodie had had with a USGA official at the Open in ’81. No matter.
“I went brain dead for a few minutes of my life and it brought me publicity for 30-some years,” he said. “I’m glad I did it.”