When Geoff Ogilvy steps onto Bethpage Black for the U.S. Open, he will be in black and trailed by a legion of superfans known as the Puma Brigade, named for the hip athletic clothing he wears. It's not quite Arnie's Army, but it is a sign of the emergence of Ogilvy, the lanky 32-year-old Australian who leads the PGA Tour's money list in 2009.
Ogilvy, who won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, will be wearing a special edition collection by Puma, consisting almost entirely of black-and-white clothes, with a pop of color here and there kind of a departure for a company known for its hot, offbeat palette. The Ogilvy fans some of whom were recruited by Puma at New York City bars will also be wearing black and white. It's like a ska celebration, mon, from the 2-Tone era in England, minus the checks. Even his shoes are two-tone.
It's also an interesting counter-trend in contemporary golf, as the clothes use pure graphics and performance features to make their statement no words are printed on them, and only the Puma signature jungle cat and 18-hole graphic design identify the label.
"It's really cool that you don't have to plaster it all over with letters," said Ogilvy this week of the Puma collection. "It's a little classier. When I look in the mirror, I think the modern stuff suits me."
Ogilvy has established himself as a pretty cool cat on the course, playing beautifully in winning the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Off the course, he describes himself as a hang-loose type of guy, "jeans and a T-shirt, and if it's warm, shorts and a T-shirt."
For golf, his primary concern is performance, and he feels the Puma shirts, with their seamless "invisibonding" construction, give him an edge. "They fit better on your shoulders," he said. "Any time you're more comfortable, in theory, the better you are going to play."
Ogilvy is the most visible professional golfer sponsored by Puma Golf, which is especially significant since the company does not make clubs. The company's golf business is entirely apparel and shoes, so Puma promotes them to the max.
NORTH OF THE BORDER
The on-course fortunes of a sponsored Tour player can have a great effect on a golf apparel line.
The Second Skin Garment Company, based near Toronto, began making a Mike Weir golf collection shortly before the Canadian won the 2003 Masters. Originally a licensing arrangement with Sears Canada, the Weir label has always been popular in Canada, but since he has not won another major, the clothes have never been distributed in the United States. Unless he wins again, they may never make it south of the border.
"The long-term goal is for Mike to win another tournament or two," said Mark Alexander, the director of sales and marketing for Second Skin. "He's an easy sell in Canada, where he is still the most visible golfer."
Meanwhile, Rory Sabbatini's win at the Byron Nelson has given a shot in the arm to Hollas Golf, another collection made by Second Skin, which sponsors Sabbatini. The collection is sold widely in the U.S., and Hollas has recently upped the number of its sales representatives in the U.S. from two to 10.
Hollas makes mid- to high-end golf clothes, shirts for $75 to $90, with some nice technical outerwear pieces, including trademarked "mapptech" merino wools that are moisture wicking and wind resistant.
"No question, Rory is a notable golfer," Alexander said. "He's very engaged with our business, and that's where the excitement is."