One of golf's fashion trends, the designer belt buckle, isn't new. In fact, it's nearly 150 years old. The British Open used to award the winner a large engraved buckle attached to a red, Morrocan-leather belt. Anyone who captured the Open three years in a row could keep it, and Young Tom Morris took it home after completing the three-peat in 1870. The Open had to find a new prize, so Old Tom Morris came up with the Claret Jug.
The latest belt buckle of note belongs to Angel Cabrera, who won the Masters while wearing a stainless steel buckle with his initials on it, AC, a more subtle version of the AK model that Anthony Kim has made famous.
Cabrera's buckle was made by Bob Bettinardi, whose company is best known for meticulously crafted custom putters. Cabrera has been wearing it for several months. Tour player Kevin Streelman has an endorsement deal to wear Bettinardi buckles and sports a different customized buckle each week he plays on the PGA Tour. In Hawaii, his buckle featured a volcano. In Phoenix, a cactus and a desert sun.
Bettinardi is expanding his custom buckles to include private clubs, college teams and corporate logos. He got the idea for the business after his wife gave him a belt with a sterling silver buckle for Christmas two years ago. "It was nice quality silver, I was feeling it and I thought, why can't we do a metal product like this?" said Bettinardi, whose company is headquartered in Tinley Park, Ill.
Bettinardi hooked up with leathermaker House of Fleming in Georgia and designed buckles that snap into and out of belts, unlike department store models, which have the buckles sewn in.
His early PGA Tour customers included Sergio Garcia, who asked for one with the Real Madrid soccer team's logo, and Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who got a shamrock. Bettinardi has also produced emblazoned buckles for golf clubs such as Medinah, Southern Hills, Olympia Fields and Golf Club of Georgia, and models with a big orange I for the University of Illinois golf team.
Bettinardi's work can be seen at Bettinardi.com, with suggested prices in the $175 range. "The whole belt thing started with Young Tom," Bettinardi said. "Now it's come full circle. We're having fun with it."