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Polyester peacocks

A brief chromatic course for the GTE Suncoast Classic at the TPC of Tampa Bay:

The grass is green, the sky is light blue, the water is dark blue, the jasmine is yellow and the heather is purple.

And the golfers' clothes are green, light blue, dark blue, yellow, purple, red, orange, fuchsia, chartreuse, puce, aquamarine, burnt umber _ and that doesn't even include Doug Sanders' outfit.

Tommy Bolt, no shrinking violet, once said of Sanders: "The man looks like a jukebox with feet. In fact, even his feet look like jukeboxes."

What is it with golfers that causes them to dress as if they had been caught in an explosion at the Crayola factory?

"Golfers want to be different," Larry Mowry explains. "We're a bunch of individuals, anyway _ this isn't a team sport _ and the bottom line is, some guys, their personality says, "Hey, look at me.' "

Anything else?

"Yeah," Mowry adds. "They can't lose you in the woods."

Chi Chi Rodriguez has a more down-to-earth reason. "I had one pair of pants, blue jeans, when I was a kid. When they tore, my mother put a patch on them. I worked all my life to get out of blue jeans. That's why I dress flashy."

But why red?

"So the TV cameras can find me in the woods."

Are we finding a common thread here?

The truth of the matter is that it's downright hard to look bad on a golf course. You can dress like a clown and have people ask where you shop.

_ author Lewis Grizzard

"Guys may dress conservatively the rest of the time," says Billy Casper, who favors neon-bright plus fours (knickers) that highlight his corpulent frame. "When they get out on the golf course, because it is a competely different area, they relax and have fun and like to wear colorful clothing. Maybe to attract attention. To give the people a smile."

Why should the people smile at Sanders, Casper and their ilk when the people look more like golfers than the golfers?

Why do otherwise normal, austere businessmen (women are not excluded, but their innate sense of good taste and common sense keeps their participation to a minimum), who drive Academy Gray Cadillacs and wear charcoal gray suits, suddenly appear in public in mix-and-match plaids, checks and stripes, in fluorescent pants dotted with tiny flamingos, pelicans, alligators, turtles or sea gulls?

"It must have something to do with genetics," Jim Colbert offers, "that they want to do something they can't do in the office and they can't walk down a New York City street in. So when they come to the golf course they go nuts. They put on everything they don't have the guts to wear anywhere else."

Do guide dogs select their raiments?

Well, close.

"When I get up, if it's not dark, I have a better shot at it," NFL quarterback-turned-Senior tour golfer John Brodie says, explaining why, on this particular day, his lemon-yellow sweater and lime-green slacks actually make a rather attractive combination. "If it's dark, whatever I end up with, that's it."

If he is winging it with his wardrobe _ the smile suggests he isn't _ Brodie is at one end of the haberdashery spectrum, the elegant Casper at the other. "I have eight outfits with me," Casper says, "and I'll flop back and forth among them. People wait to see what I'm going to wear the next day."

At the 1983 U.S. Senior Open at Hazeltine, Casper and Rod Funseth were tied after four rounds, forcing an 18-hole playoff. "The first question," Casper recalls, "was, "Do you have anything to wear tomorrow?' I told them what I had and allowed them to select what I'd wear. It was a pink pair of pants and a cherry shirt with matching argyle socks."

Casper won.

"Golf is not a sport. Golf is men in ugly pants walking."

_ Comedian Rosie O'Donnell

"Yeah, I've seen a lot of ugly people in ugly pants walking," says Lee Trevino. He admits that he is not entirely blameless. In 1968, he attended an end-of-the-tour dinner. It was his first visit to New York. "I went up there with summer pants on, orange ones," Trevino says. "They were actually whistling at me when I walked down the street."

If he has ever gotten heat for his choice of attire, he won't admit it. "My caddie weighs 310 pounds," Trevino says of Herman Mitchell. "Nobody gives me any heat about anything."

Some of his compatriots are not so lucky.

"I've gotten ragged for clashing with a golf course," Brodie says.

"I got into a purple thing in '87," Mowry adds. "Seems like everything I wore was a shade of purple. The fans really gave it to me, like, "Hey, I heard you two holes away.' And a lot of Minnesota Vikings stuff."

Of late, Mowry has been eschewing the more colorful garb. "I'm not playing as well as I used to," he says, "so I'm not as flashy with the dress. I want to blend in, not be seen so much."

Once upon a time, Groucho and Chico Marx were playing Hillcrest Country Club at Beverly Hills. Because of the heat, they decided to remove their shirts. They were reprimanded by an official who pointed out that club rules required shirts at all times.

The next time they teed off, they wore shirts _ and no pants. "Where does it say members must wear pants?" Groucho inquired.

The rule book was immediately revised.

At Hillcrest, shirts and pants are now required.

Taste is optional.

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