Lacoste in Evian - Golf Fashion and Golf History
Along with the world's top women golfers, there'll be another welcome presence in the Alpine Hills of Evian-les-Bains this week: A smiling green crocodile.
Not only is Lacoste an eagle sponsor at Evian Masters, they sponsor Lorena Ochoa who currently holds the lead at the tournament and is rarely seen in a shirt or sweater that doesn't bear the iconic reptile logo. Beautiful Cristie Kerr is also a Lacoste girl. Who could forget her U.S. Open win last year in that bright red polo? Right now she's at -2 with a group that includes Paula Creamer, Yani Tseng, Se Ri Pak and others. Then there are French golfers Patricia Munier-Lebouc (who won at Mission Hills in 2003, BTW) and Gwladys Nocera. They often wear black Lacoste (French girls are so chic, aren't they?) Guy golfers with names like Olazabel and Allenby and Jimenez also sport the preppy little croc on their polos.
The 75 year old French apparel company, with the world famous logo, is headquartered in Paris. It's a family run company and their connection with golf goes beyond that of most brands, because this family has lived golf at the highest levels.
Catherine Lacoste (pictured at left in the adorable bucket hat) is the daughter of company founder, Rene Lacoste, himself a champion tennis player. In 1967 Catherine won the U.S. Open as a 22 year old amateur, playing in just her third professional golf tournament. She then went on to win both the both the United States Women's Amateur Golf Championship and the British Ladies Amateur Championship in 1969. She was a big hitter with a powerful game. Golf Digest would call her "arguably the most powerful player of her era." However, that was the 60's, women's golf was not what it is today and society offered fewer choices to women. in the end Catherine never went professional, choosing instead to pursue family life. She had four children and dedicated herself to family business interests. She was president of Chantaco Golf Club for 30 years and still serves on the board of directors of Lacoste, the company her father founded.
After researching this story, when I see Lorena and her faithful crocodile this weekend, I'm sure I'll think about the short sparkling golf career of Catherine Lacoste and what might have been.
Lacoste - Fascinating Facts
Rene Lacoste won 7 Grand Slam singles titles in the French, American, and British tennis championships. He was the world number one player for both 1926 and 1927.
The crocodile was actually an alligator. The American press called Rene,"Alligator" because of a bet he made on a match, where the stakes included an alligator suitcase. There was no French word for alligator so the nickname was changed to "le crocodile". A friend drew out the reptilian logo and it was embroidered on to Rene's blazers in later onto the famous polo shirts.
The alligator origins of the logo were confirmed at the time of Rene's death. French Advertising agency Publicis, who had been managing the Lacoste account for decades, published a print ad with the Lacoste logo and the English words "See you later...".
Rene himself designed the polo shirt, and it was revolutionary for it's pique knit and short sleeves at a time when tennis was played in stiff, long sleeved, cotton oxford shirts. the crocodile logo embroidered on the chest was the first example of a brand appearing on the outside of an article of clothing.
Catherine Lacoste's mother,Simone Thion de la Chaume, was also a French golf champion.In 1924 she became the first foreign player to win the British Girls Amateur Championship and in 1927 the first to win the British Ladies Amateur Championship, which her daughter won years later.
Lorena Ochoa has played golf with Catherine Lacoste on a couple of occasions. Catherine's husband is Spanish and she speaks the language fluently. When asked about playing with the Mexican champion, Catherine said, " I always sense that Lorena is smiling at the ball". I hear they may be playing together again later this summer ...and Cristie Kerr may be joining them.
I love Lacoste shirts and currently own 9. I intend to obtain many more in the future.
(There's a new Lacoste shop in my home town of Greenwich, so, yay!)
Make sure you keep up with the action at the Evian Masters site.
Parts of this story were originally posted on my blog, Red Tee Tales at GolfforWomen.com