Ed Dudley (left) is a pro in a pleasant predicament. His golf shop at Colorado Springs' Broadmoor is so filled with shirts and slacks, walking shorts, caps and shoes that there is no room any more for a practice hefting of the irons in the corner. So Big Ed is going to tear down the walls and increase the size of his shop "tenfold to take care of the customers.
There are 3,500 other shopkeeping golf pros in the same cramped boat. In the years since the war, like it or not, they've become big-time clothing merchants. The switch to haberdashery hasn't been an easy one for most of the men who had a natural familiarity with the implements of golf as a result of caddying boyhoods but who didn't know lisle from lamb's wool. But with a wartime and postwar shortage of clubs, the pros had to stock apparel to keep the doors open. Then along came Jimmy Demaret in purple Charmeen slacks and custom-made matching shoes, and along came his more conservative but equally clothes-conscious big-time cronies, and the 5 million golfers of the land were clothes-struck. The pro who had been only timidly in the clothing business was suddenly knee-deep in soft goods. And what happened? In 1948 he made 10% of his take-off on apparel. In 1955, 54% of his merchandise went out on customers' backs, and golfers have become the best-dressed participants in sport.
The merchant-pro now knows—when he sees the newly popular alpaca cardigans at $40 outselling cashmere at a mere $35—the difference between lisle and lamb's wool. And if he didn't, there would be other merchants well equipped to tell him. One of these is Bernard Gimbel of Saks Fifth Avenue, who became so intrigued with the upgrading of golfdom's taste that in 1950 he instituted a golf-pro service through his store which now supplies 600 pro shops with merchandise—and gets the Saks label into some of the country's swankiest locker rooms. Another quick to see the potential was Ernie Sabayrac of Hialeah, Florida, who since 1948 has developed a wholesale operation supplying pro shops with such brand names as Footjoy, Palm Beach and Izod that now does a $2 million volume annually. But perhaps the most dynamic operator in the field is a pro-Harry Obitz of Fred Waring's Shawnee-on-the-Delaware. Harry turns his five-man team out for his "Swing's the Thing" golf show tailored to a tee. With every synchronized swing, the gallery gets a lesson in how to dress for golf. That free lesson is rarely an inexpensive one.