Rickie Fowler grew up in Murrieta in Southern California, the son of a motocross dad who was part of a winning Baja 1000 team and an Asian-American mom who instilled in him discipline, not to mention filmed all of his adventures.
By the time he was in high school, Fowler rode regularly with his dad, launching his motorbike off 50-foot ramps with little trouble. But he wasn’t bad at golf either, having first been taught by his granddad, then by an old-school club pro who saw Fowler’s immense talent.
He was a star at golf factory Oklahoma State University, where he was as famous for sliding face-first down a frozen hill in a memorable YouTube clip as he was for going 7-1 in the amateur Walker Cup international matches and winning the Ben Hogan Award for the nation’s top collegiate golfer as a freshman.
“I did a bunch of crazy stuff when I was growing up,” Fowler admits when asked to explain his nontraditional background in one of the most traditional of sports. “I’m a little bit different. I’m an adrenaline seeker. I have some fast cars … I like to get out and get up in the air and have fun.”
The dazzlingly bright outfits with the flat-brimmed hat, popular with the skateboarding and motocross crowd, are all part of his marketing plan, www.rickiefowler.com, which is featured prominently on the back of his hat. His signature line, ‘Go Time,’ (he also uses it as a hash tag to sign many of his Twitter postings) captures the face of a new pro-golfing generation.
“I want to attract people to golf, bring in fans, be a draw,” he says. “Golf is cool; sometimes people just don’t realize it.”
Just don’t mistake his coolness and hip style for lack of caring on the course.
“We’re not out here to mess around, we’re here to win. Nobody is out here screwing around. We’re here on the big tour for a reason.”
In just two and a half years on the tour, he’s already collected five top-three finishes and $5.4 million dollars in prize money, not to mention millions more in endorsements. That’s proof indeed that the neon golfer is not messing around.
The Cadillac Man
Catch Orange, Calif., native and longtime Dallas resident Hunter Mahan on the golf course, and one of the first things you’ll notice is his sunglasses. Or his belt buckle. Or maybe his surfer-dude blond looks.
Mahan may be in danger of losing some young-gun cred as he’s actually nearly 30 (gasp) and recently married — to a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader — but he’s still eager to be a part of golf’s generational change. “You had players like Davis Love and Fred Couples who dominated golf for a long time. But now, the young guns are coming on, and I think it’s the changing of the guard a bit. The young players and their style are the evolution of the game today,” he explains. “Golf should be fun, and we need to make it [that way]. You can have a good time on the course. You don’t have to be mute. Sometimes the game changes as things start to change … it doesn’t have to be so stiff.”
Mahan has won three PGA Tour events, tying with Watson’s and Kim’s success, but he says he wants to be successful in other ways as well. He’s already been selected for four U.S. teams in international competition — two Ryder Cup matches and two Presidents Cup affairs, with a 3-1 team record — and his televised fist pumps, mirrored shades and large belt buckles have translated well in golf’s international language. He’s also an Internet sensation now, after joining with some fellow young American players (including Fowler and Watson) to film the spoof music video “Golf Boys,” which attracted a million hits on YouTube in its first week.
Mahan actually claims to be one of the first to christen a belt buckle as a PGA Tour fashion statement. “My first year out here, I had a Cadillac belt buckle I got at the flea market, and the guys started calling me Cadillac. We’re lucky we’re in a sport where our face isn’t covered, or we don’t all wear the same uniforms.”
Typically, today his belt buckle is the symbol of a corporate sponsor, but he still has plenty of individuality, especially when it comes to cars.
“I have a 1972 GMC truck, which I had lowered; a 1969 Chevy Nova with a flat back and a new paint job to make it look like a Camaro; plus my Yukon, a Mercedes C63 and a 2005 Dodge truck. I usually drive the Nova, the Mercedes and the Yukon, with the others at home.”
Without a doubt, Mahan is plainly driven to succeed — on the course and off.