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The Pro Golfer Who Wore Shorts During a US Open

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  • None of the significant men's professional tours today allow their golfers to play tournament rounds in shorts. All such tours require their golfers to play in long pants.

    That's the way it's always been on the PGA Tour, for example. But back in 1983, one pro golfer who had been campaigning for the use of shorts staged a mini-protest. He just did it in a USGA, rather than a PGA Tour, tournament.

    The golfer was Forrest Fezler and the tournament was the 1983 U.S. Open.

    The original Associated Press article from 1983 describes what happened in the final round at Oakmont Country Club:

    Fezler ducked into a portable restroom between the 17th green and 18th tee and changed from the blue slacks he had worn for 17 holes into navy blue golf shorts. "I feel better already," he said.
    The article notes that spectators did "double takes," and some broke "into cheers."

    Curtis Strange and Scott Hoch were playing in the group behind Fezler, and both, the AP account states, "clapped and gave the thumbs-up sign."

    After Fezler received a standing ovation from the fans around the 18th green, he putted out, entered the clubhouse and changed back into his trousers.

    And did the USGA take action against Fezler, perhaps even disqualifying him? No. As then-USGA president William Campbell explained after the round, the USGA, at that time, had no policy explicitly banning the wearing of shorts during a U.S. Open (which probably explains why Fezler chose the U.S. Open and not a PGA Tour event for his "protest").

    But Fezler had been threatening to wear shorts during a tournament, and USGA officials met with Fezler during tournament week to "discourage it," Campbell told the AP at the time, adding "but we made no threats."

    It was simply tradition, at the time of the 1983 U.S. Open, for all competitors to wear long pants - not an official USGA rule, but an unwritten rule.

    Today? The no-shorts policy at the U.S. Open is a written rule. Application forms for local and sectional qualifiers include a section on "Personal Appearance," which states that shorts are OK (pending the host course's dress code) in the qualifiers, but "the wearing of short pants is prohibited in the Championship proper ..."

    So Fezler's act of civil disobedience did nothing to encourage the PGA Tour to allow shorts, but probably had something to do with the USGA explicitly banning them.

    And Fezler? He had a decent career as a player, remaining a PGA Tour member for many years, posting one victory plus a runner-up finish in the 1974 U.S. Open. Today Fezler owns a golf course construction and design company where, presumably, he wears shorts whenever he feels like it.

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