Forrest Fezler won a PGA Tour event and worked alongside renowned course architect Mike Strantz on many of his most notable projects, including his last, the renovation of the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Yet Fezler was best known and will forever be remembered for changing into “Larry Bird-length” shorts in a port-a-john between the 17th green and 18th tee in the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.
“I went brain dead for a few minutes of my life and it brought me publicity for 30-some years,” he said in 2016. “I’m glad I did it.”
Fezler, 69, died on Friday. He had been battling brain cancer, his son Jordan noted earlier this week on Twitter.
In 1974, Fezler won the Southern Open and finished second in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Fezler intended to make the 1983 season his last playing full-time on the PGA Tour. Two years earlier, in the U.S. Open at Merion, he and John Schroeder were both penalized for slow play. They argued their case and the penalties were rescinded, but Fezler’s anger lingered.
“What could I do to protest what happened a couple of years earlier and not get in trouble for?” he wrote on his website. “I figured shorts was the answer. It was not against the USGA dress policy and it was hot so why not.”
He wrote the temperature inside the cramped Port-a-John “was about 2000 degrees,” but he managed to change into Bermuda shorts.
“I ran up to the 18th tee barely able to breathe, eyes were watering, couldn’t see the ball. I was shaking and more scared than any time in my life. My heart was beating so fast. Thought I could pass out.”
He received perhaps the biggest ovation of his career approaching the 18th green.
Two years ago, Fezler ran into Brooks Koepka in Tallahassee, Fla., where Fezler Golf Services is located.
“We hadn’t met before,” Fezler told said in a telephone interview. “I was introduced to him and he says, ‘I know you. You’re the guy who wore the shorts.’
“Who finished second in the U.S. Open two years ago? Nobody remembers. I came in second in the U.S. Open. Nobody remembers that. But Brooks Koepka, he’s 25-years old. Thirty-two years ago, seven years before he was born, I wore shorts, and the first thing he says is, ‘I know you. You’re the guy who wore the shorts.’ On my tombstone that’s probably what it’s going to say.”
It ought to make room for his design work, too. When he left the tour, he had an opportunity to own a golf course, Golden Eagle Golf Club in Tallahassee.
“I had great fortune in having Tom Fazio and his design associate Mike Strantz design Golden Eagle…for me,” he wrote. “That was my first step in partaking in designing and building. Well, excuse the pun but I was ‘hooked.’
“A new love for me in golf grew and eventually Mike Strantz and I became partners in designing and building some of the greatest most respected courses in the country.”
Strantz died of cancer in 2005.