Monday, April 25, 2011

Winter in my hometown usually drags on and on, often with a final hammerblow in the form of a “Basketball Tournament Blizzard” that pushes us beyond tolerance and even sanity, giving a more literal meaning to “March Madness.”

Spring Fever has been an acute annual affliction for me; I can’t wait to get outside onto green grass. I played a lot of family golf growing up in Minnesota as my dad, who had learned the game himself as a kid out on the prairie, put Grandpa’s hickory-shafted “Lawson Little Signature” niblick in my hands at about age 6. Hitting wiffle balls in the backyard hooked me deep, and for life, on the world’s most humbling hobby. So, Spring each year starts vicariously up here: watching the Masters on TV with the gorgeous explosion of brightly-colored azaleas and perfect greens, and hearing Jim Nantz and lately Nick Faldo (or in the old days, Pat Summeral and Ken Venturi ) rhapsodize about the “tradition unlike any other.”

This year, the experience wasn’t so vicarious. While the home temperatures were still struggling to crack 40, I was lucky to be at Augusta for the tournament with my friend and colleague Colin Hall, our Head of Marketing and International Business at Allen Edmonds, who also happens to be quite a good photographer (something I didn’t know).

The Masters was especially great for us, and not just because of the exciting finish. Colin and I had a chance to greet our golf spokesman Ben Crenshaw and his caddy Carl Jackson, both of whom were sporting our new golf shoes.

Ben wore the REDAN and Carl the spikeless LINKS. It was Carl’s 50th Masters, so we personalized his shoes with “50th” in Augusta green on the side. We have a perfect connection with Ben Crenshaw and, having met Carl and read about him in Sports Illustrated’s Masters edition, with him, too. They’re classy gentlemen who respect people, the game, its history and its traditions and who have made their own significant contributions in their impressive careers. We couldn’t be prouder of the association at Allen Edmonds.

While this year’s event will be remembered for the back-nine charge Tiger didn’t make while future star Rory McIlroy was suffering character-building misfortune off the tee at 10, Colin and I enjoyed a memorable sidebar coincidence. Last summer, the Western Amateur Tournament was held at Colin’s club in Chicago. The winner was a collegian named David Chung, who also came in second at the U.S. Amateur and qualified to play in the Masters. After Mr. Chung’s quarter final victory (3 extra holes) at the Western, he greeted Colin’s ten year old son greenside and gave him the winning ball. As you can imagine, this gesture was a pretty big deal in the Hall household. At Augusta, we bumped into David’s mother at the 10th tee of a practice round and had a nice conversation in which Colin complimented her on her David’s graciousness, which clearly gave her some motherly pride. Then we watched him – with his (estimating) 5’5”, 130 pound frame – bomb the ball past the pros on both 10 and 11. Wow. When we got back to our Blackberries that evening, I emailed my daughter (who goes to the same school) to ask if she knows David Chung. Here’s her response: “I DO know David Chung!! Quite well, actually! I met him last year in our dorm and he would always call me Annika Sorenstam. That is amazing that he went to the Masters!! So cool!” Small world.

Below are some of Colin’s best photos from the practice rounds, which is when they allow patrons to take pictures. Given that sports figures have a big impact on fashion trends on and off the field of play, we all can plan on white shoes, white belts and white pants making a huge comeback in menswear. We can also expect to see more and more brown and white spectator shoes with classic brogue patterns. After so many years of black shoes (made of uncertain leathers), black pants and dark colored shirts, it’s nice to see the change.

Happy Spring and let’s all hit ‘em straighter this year!

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation