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the Ball

The Big Shot

June 25, 1999|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES FASHION WRITER

They may snicker at his knickers, but Payne Stewart--golfdom's winning Prince of Putts--knows how to swing his way into the fashion fore front.

The 42-year-old golfer, who won the U.S. Open for a second time five days ago, also has a golfing link to the past--as in Old School style: knickerbockers, knee socks and Scottish driving caps.

In his inimitable style, Stewart stayed the course last week as he putted--and strutted--in loose trousers, gathered just below the knees, popularized by the English and worn through history by the likes of the prince of Wales in 1876 and the bishop of London in 1925. Even Lionel Barrymore sported them in 1933.

Payne began wearing knickers--also known as plus-fours because the pants fall 4 inches below the knee--when he qualified for the PGA Tour in 1982 and soon noticed a clone of golfers in red pants and white shirts with red stripes.

Wanting a different look--a la golf pro Bobby Jones, who in the 1920s, wore plus-fours--Payne tracked down Tim Barry of Palm Desert. Barry owns the T. Barry Knicker Co., which, natch, makes knickers and other golfwear: argyle socks, sweaters and caps.

For the last 17 years, Barry has custom-made more than 200 pairs of knickers for Stewart (waist 34 regular) including a special pair called the Stewart plaid in red, navy and white with a royal blue overstitch.

"We've made them in all the colors, in all the plaids for Payne," says Barry, who also has outfitted Bob Hope and other celeb golfers.

Since Stewart's championship win in his dashing outfit, the phone's been busier at Barry's.

"In the last few days we've had an influx in interest because we're probably the only company still up and at it," says Barry. (For Web site and catalog information, call (800) 634-9164.)

Gary McCord, a CBS golf commentator, 25-year veteran of the PGA Tour and author of "Golf for Dummies," knows Stewart well.

"His dad was a salesman and would wear colorful, mismatched clothes. Payne tells a story about his dad telling him, 'They'll always remember who I was and not necessarily what I was selling' because of his style choices. Payne carried it over with the knickers," says McCord, who prefers to golf in Tommy Bahama.

"I don't think any of us would be caught dead in knickers," McCord says. "Besides, Payne's got that market cornered."

Like a hole in one.

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