Undercover Tour Pro: Why I Decided To Change My Uniform

October 24, 2017

Illustration by Eddie Guy

The smartest move I made last season was dropping my clothing deal. I was getting paid 15 grand a year to wear a particular brand, and it wasn't worth the aggravation. I've never been picky about clothes, but this stuff I genuinely didn't care for. The colors were a bit electric for my taste, and something about the fit of the sleeves was off—tight in the armpits. I'd receive a new box of 20 shirts and a dozen pairs of pants every few months, and with almost every other shipment there was an issue. A logo would be mis-stitched or in the wrong spot, or some of the clothes were the wrong size. They'd promise to fix it and deliver a new batch to my hotel right away. Two tournaments later, the box arrives ... on a Friday.

A clothing deal for a very top player could be a million or more, but unless your name is Jason Day or Sergio Garcia, most of the clothing-only deals are worth about the same, which is low five figures. And unlike deals for clubs and balls, where you can unlock bonuses with high finishes and wins, the marketing budgets of most smaller clothing lines are fixed. Still, they're not shy about asking for multiple days of your time, either to shoot advertisements or do promotional events with their clients. I get that it's a tough business, but the objectives of these companies are sometimes hard to discern. Each is looking for a player whose image tells their brand's "story," whatever that means. Understandably, I guess, a lot of clothing companies would rather have their guy look good and play bad than the other way around.

After taxes, that 15 grand becomes more like nine, which isn't a lot of cash to wear stuff that you're not in love with. I spend just about my whole life in golf clothes, probably more than triple the time any other athlete spends in his uniform. It's important to feel good about what you're wearing.

I know some players who are in love with being treated like a model. They get really excited when their new clothes arrive and obsess about what belt to pair with which outfit. They'll sit at their locker and have a 30-minute phone conversation with their clothing rep. Some guys will wear a shirt once and then give it away.

Then again, I know some guys who will go through 100 white shirts a year not because they're prima donnas, but because they sweat like pigs. You never know when you're going to catch fire and suddenly get a lot of air time. Those are valuable minutes and seconds, and you can't let down your sponsors by looking scrubby. A loose thread or some sunscreen discoloration on your collar looks bad in high-def.

Last season, right before the playoffs started, I sent an email to the head of a company whose clothes I really like. I asked him to send me some gear for the FedEx Cup and promised I would wear his line all of the next season for free. I'm not exactly cut like Camilo Villegas, but I've won on the PGA Tour and I'm friendly and carry myself with dignity. To get me for the cost of product was a good deal for him. Plus, he doesn't have to go through my agent. He can just email me directly about anything. So far it's been seamless.

And it's a good deal for me. So what if I left 15 grand on the table? I can make that up feeling comfortable over one swing.

—With Max Adler