Imagine if you were an aspiring professional golfer who loved to watch tires and grew up in North Carolina … and found out that Michael Jordan wanted you to wear his gear?
That’s what happened to PGA Tour player Harold Varner III in 2017 when a strong performance at the August Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC helped get a message from “the boss”. MJ himself, who takes golf as seriously as basketball, turned to Varner.
“I had worn Oxford Apparel and used a Nike Elite Account to buy my golf shoes, but I really wanted to go to Nike or something sporty. And then MJ beat me up. It was perfect, ”says Varner.
At the first event in 2018, Varner had lost his Srixon hat and basic Oxford Apparel and Nike cleats and took the course at the Sony Open in super clean gear and some stupid Jordan XIII golf shoes. It’s been going since then.
“Without a doubt. I’ve seen grown men go crazy about something I’m wearing,” says Varner. “(Other Tour players are excited too, but) I don’t give a shit what they want. They’ll ask, ‘ Can MJ get me some of these shoes? ‘ I’m just telling them to find out for themselves and keep it moving. “
There are five other Jordanian golfers – Keegan Bradley, Luke Donald, Pat Perez, Camilo Villegas, and Bubba Watson – but they have other sponsors who require branding on their clothing.
HV3 (a great IG follow @ hv3_golf, fwiw) on the other hand, a super solid golfer who finished in the top 110 of the tour for the past five years but has no career wins on the tour and is not particularly well known for his golfing accomplishments, quickly embraced all the buzz who creates their Jordan gear from head to toe.
“Every time I play well, people want to talk about my shoes,” says 31-year-old Varner. “And I’m sure that wearing all of these things on TV is good for your popularity.”
Jordan Brand does not disclose specific sales figures and in the case of golf (much like Jordan’s relationship with Nike in baseball and soccer) the shoes are actually just a branch of Nike Golf, but the growth can be determined by the fact that it is now a standard -Jordan’s golf shoe, available year-round – the ADG3, which sells for $ 140 – in addition to the occasional retro drops that set resale sites on fire, much like their basketball siblings.
In a sport traditionally not known for its inclusiveness, Varner thinks the exposure of his cleats and clothing was a connecting element. “My shoes caught the attention of everyone, from millionaires to poor people. Jordans really seem to bring people together. “
Ben Osborne, a former SLAM Ed., Is now Head of Content for Women’s sports only.
Photos via Getty Images.