ORLANDO, Fla.--One team had a major wardrobe malfunction at last year's Ryder Cup. The team that didn't, Europe, coincidentally always uses ProQuip raingear.
The American team sent an emissary to the merchandise tent to purchase ProQuip after their gear was found wanting, and that whole tempest in a teacup turned into the best public relations accident that ever happened to ProQuip, the unofficial raingear kings.
"The phones rang off the hooks, the publicity for us was great," Richard Head, a Welshman who is ProQuip's managing director, said at the PGA Merchandise Show.
The best news for consumers is that the whole affair hastened ProQuip's return to America. For the last few years, right up until the Ryder Cup, ProQuip didn't have a distributor in North America. Now it's back, fresh off its reputation-buffing at Celtic Manor. Peter McNamara, based in Marblehead, Mass., is in charge of U.S. operations.
ProQuip was one of the innovators in creating water-resistant outerwear, and tour players have been among its biggest fans because ProQuip developed the quietest raingear. Their research found that players wanted quiet rain pants--pants that didn't rustle and make a lot of noise while they walked--and they wanted soft material that didn't constrict so players can swing freely.
"Waterproof in Europe isn't the same as waterproof in America," Head said. "We play all the time in the darned stuff back home, so we've got a lot of experience with it."
Go back and watch footage of that 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland and decide for yourself if the raingear then might have made a difference. The Europeans wore ProQuip, of course, and were high and dry and happy. The Americans wore a different brand, jackets that looked bulkier, and the players looked like drowned rats. They didn't look happy to be there.
ProQuip focuses so much on high quality that it doesn't produce outerwear in mass quantity, so it is challenged to keep up. You should be able to find ProQuip in select on-course golf shops and on the internet at proquipgolf.com.
Its standard rainsuit, the UltraLite, comes in black with red and white trim, and blue with a suggested retail price of $350 for the jacket and pants. ProQuip also has some rain sweaters, for lack of a better word. Head pulled out a navy blue sweater with a half-zipper, made of merino wool, and laid it flat on a counter. Then he poured part of a water bottle on top of the wool sweater. The water simply puddled on the sweater and wasn't absorbed. Pretty amazing.
The lined version of that sweater will sell for $180, unlined $130.
"We get some of our wool from a family that's been doing this same business since the time of Napoleon," Head said.
Another reason some Americans will be glad that ProQuip is back on these shores is that it's a favorite raingear of a number of tall athletes, notably pro basketball players, because ProQuip's line of rain pants offers 35-inch lengths as standard, and will make them to 37 inches. The jacket line expands to XXXL.
New this year is a ladies version of the water resistant merino wool sweater, with full zipper, suggested to retail at $160.
One London-based newspaper last year put ProQuip in its list of the top 100 moments of the golf year because of the Ryder Cup rainwear flap. "The Guardian listed us as No. 97," he said. "We loved it."
(Photo: David Walberg/SI)