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Ryan Moore with Geoff Tait, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Pasternak
Ryan Moore with Geoff Tait, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Pasternak

Rubenstein: Palmer strengthens his Canadian ties Add to ...

Orlando, Fla. - No Canadian has won a major since Mike Weir took the 2003 Masters, but Quagmire, a Toronto-based apparel company, is doing impressive things with the golfer who, even at 82, remains a major figure in the game. That’s Arnold Palmer, the winner of seven majors and the host of this week’s PGA Tour event. It’s called, of course, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Quagmire’s hip, retro line, has taken on a decidedly lively look, which isn’t to say its clothes weren’t fun to wear before it associated itself recently with Palmer. Jim Leish of the International Management Group in Cleveland contacted Quagmire’s founders Bobby Pasternak and Geoff Tait 18 months ago. What was going on?

The call, as Pasternak explained Friday at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, the site of the tournament and Palmer’s winter home, was to ask if Quagmire was interested in discussing a redevelopment of his apparel line. Palmer’s name is respected around the world. But his clothing line was getting tired. He was a traditionalist, but the traditional look wasn’t going places.

And so the call came through to Quagmire’s offices, a short distance up the road from the Weston Golf and Country Club, where Palmer had won the 1955 Canadian Open. That was his first win as a professional. A statue of him behind the first tee commemorates the occasion. Now the lines were opened to Palmer associating himself further with Canada.

“Geoff and I flew down to Latrobe and met with his daughter Amy Saunders and Cori Britt,” Pasternak said. Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pa., lives there much of the year, and hangs out at the down-to-earth Latrobe Country Club where his father Deacon was the superintendent. Britt is the vice-president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises. He grew up in Latrobe and used to cut the grass at Palmer’s home.

Tait and Pasternak went through the closets in Palmer’s home, where everything was in perfect condition. They talked about a possible direction for the brand. Tait, principally, worked on designing a look that would reflect what Palmer wore throughout the decades of his career.

Palmer and his coterie loved the look. They gave Quagmire the right to change the Arnold Palmer script and create its own creative font. They’ve even developed a black and white umbrella logo instead of the well-known rainbow look. Palmer - 82-year-old Palmer - was going outside the box.

The clothing line is getting a lot of play at this week’s tournament. Shirts, sweaters, caps, umbrellas, and more are in the pro shop and merchandise tent. A T-shirt has “Go Arnie Go” on it. There’s an old school Argyle sweater. Colours are bold and energetic. The line is called Arnie. Pasternak and Tait call the man “Mr. Palmer” in conversation, but truly, he’s Arnie to everybody here.

That’s because Palmer has retained the common touch for the many decades in which he’s graced the game. To visit Palmer at his club in Latrobe, or in his home, is to dine on burgers, or maybe lobster, mac and cheese sandwiches. They go well with the popular drink known as an “Arnold Palmer,” which is half iced tea and half lemonade.

Meanwhile, Ryan Moore, who shot 71-71 in the opening rounds here, is wearing the new clothes. He’s the perfect tour player for the line, and, in fact, he has rarely associated himself with clothing or equipment lines. Moore does his own thing, to use a fine ‘60s term. He wears a retro line of shoes from TRUELinkswear. Moore is a major investor in the company, which makes shoes based on the barefoot running approach. That is, the golfer hardly knows he’s wearing the shoes.

“I like the guys and the concept,” Moore said after his round of Quagmire’s Arnie line. “I’m very comfortable wearing the clothes. And to be associated with Mr. Palmer is never a bad thing.”

True. Pasternak and Tait attended a cocktail party at Bay Hill Thursday night where Palmer was thanking various companies with which he’s associated. He was eloquent, in his usual, down-home way.

“He said we should have fun, that’s what it’s all about,” Pasternak said.

The Quagmire fellows are having fun, while growing a business with one of golf’s major figures. Mr. Palmer and Quagmire have bonded. Whoops, that should be “Arnie” and Quagmire. Arnie, and a couple of young men from Canada steadily making their fashionable mark in the game.

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at rube@sympatico.ca . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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