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Long Drive champion Troy Mullins with golf clubs


Playing by Her Own Rules

Troy Mullins explores the shades of gray in how we dress for the green

By Embry Roberts

Playing by Her Own Rules

By Embry Roberts

“Golf is kind of like acting,” explained Troy Mullins.  “You dress the part. When you’re not comfortable in your own skin and in whatever you’re wearing, it can affect how you play and, mentally, how you show up. If you dress with confidence, you’re going to experience confidence.”

Out of Bounds

The golfer and World Long Drive champion had her own growing pains in finding the sweet spot between sporting tradition and personal style.

“When I took up golfing years ago after college, I would literally try to dress conservative and golf–appropriate, but I would always get in trouble,” Troy recalled. “I would be wearing a polo – you never saw me with a tank top or yoga pants – and regulation golf skirts I bought in the pro shop from the golf course. And they would still say, ‘Oh, it’s too short!’”

The unwanted attention created stress and embarrassment for Troy, and it certainly didn’t help her feel at home in a world where not many others looked like her. “I’ll never know if it was because I’m African-American with big, curly, loud hair and I was just bringing too much attention for the kind of white country club that I was at,” she mused. “It was very frustrating.”

Changing the Game

Troy suspects that there was more at play – a tension between the traditional game of yore and the one that she (and many others) would like to see evolve with more modern, inclusive sensibilities. “Some members that are older and more conservative are trying to push back in every way that they can, but they’re limiting the people that are interested in this great sport,” she said. “It’s closing the door and closing a lot of minds off to what could be a really fashionable, fun game.”

Troy doesn’t suggest doing away with dress codes altogether, but making room for golfers to express their tastes within them. “I don’t find it appropriate for girls to wear tank tops, and I don’t find it appropriate for girls to wear really short skirts and show cleavage,” Troy explained. “This game is classy, and it should be kept classy. But you can still be fun with color and different cuts and styles, and keep some aspects of the conservative game while creating your own style and your own fit.”

The New Order

As for Troy, she’s had good luck finding the middle ground with her sponsor, Swedish lifestyle and activewear brand J.Lindeberg. Troy said of the first time she tried on the company’s golf dresses, “I felt classy. I felt sexy. I felt all-powerful … There’s just something about this brand. It’s sporty, yet you look like a million bucks and you feel the same.” She even wears her J.Lindeberg clothing straight off the course to her side job as a tutor.

She hopes other brands will follow suit in creating upscale activewear that allows the wearer to show personality without sacrificing polish. In the meantime, she’s bent on avoiding anything that could be mistaken for a wardrobe malfunction. “I just have that old residual fear of somebody calling me out for wearing a skirt,” she said with a laugh. “So I get nervous when I wear skirts that I feel are a little bit too short. I try to avoid it at all costs.”

Despite the awkward moments, she has hope for golf’s fashion-forward future. “Of all the sports, golf could be the stylish sport,” she insisted. “Could be! Is it? Not yet. But the more young people who become interested in golf, the more stylish it will become.”