OWASSO — Dozens of kids ranging from elementary school age to college students wore orange and lime green shirts and Puma hats. They followed Rickie Fowler around Monday afternoon on a hilly course that takes some dedication to walk all 18 holes.
Fowler's gallery easily was the largest at the Patriot Cup, the major fundraising event for Folds of Honor.
Fowler, who is a fashion trendsetter, has created a cult like following among a new generation of golfers. Young, loyal fans, many among his half a million Twitter followers, are drawn to a 24-year-old star who wears florescent clothes and a flat-billed hat.
“I love it,” Fowler said. “It's really a lot of fun to have the support from the younger generation, especially. I love having those little kids out there running around. Whether you're having a good day or bad day, when I see little kids with Puma gear on it makes me smile.”
In a pro-am field that included 10 PGA Tour members and 13 PGA Champions Tour players, the former Oklahoma State star signed autographs and posed for pictures for nearly 30 minutes after the fourth annual Memorial Day event.
“That's the kind of guy he is,” said Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, who developed a relationship with Fowler when they were both at Oklahoma State. “Rickie Fowler is great for golf.
“You see all those flat-billed Puma hats. He brings the kids out. He's a young go-getter. He plays the game recklessly. He doesn't lay up. He kind of brings a new attitude, which is awesome. And he can play. He's going to get more wins and make a lot of money.”
Known for his aggressive play, Fowler has enjoyed success on the PGA Tour. He's closing in on $9 million in career earnings despite turning pro just four years ago.
This year, Fowler is 46th on the money list ($1.03 million). He has made the cut in 10 of 12 events with three top 10 finishes.
It was last year, in May, when Fowler finally broke through with his first PGA Tour win at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Still, some have expected more from Fowler because of his solid credentials dating back to his amateur days.
Fowler was 7-1 in match-play on two Walker Cup teams. He was ranked the No. 1 amateur in the world for 36 consecutive weeks. His freshman year at OSU, he won the Ben Hogan Award as the top college golfer.
“I really don't think about (expectations) a whole lot,” Fowler said. “I try to focus week to week. This week, we have the Memorial and I'm really prepping for the U.S. Open and looking to have a good major. It's tough to win on the PGA Tour. I'm excited with where my game is and where my health is now.”
Hampered by a back injury last year, Fowler said he's finally healthy for the first time since last year's U.S. Open.
“The last five weeks, playing in four events, are not the results I wanted,” Fowler said. “But health-wise I feel really good. I just need some putts to drop, get some good mojo going, get a little rhythm going. I've been swinging it really well. I'm pretty excited about what's about to happen with my game.”
California born and raised, Fowler views Oklahoma as his second home. Last week he matched the first $100,000 given to tornado relief in the Oklahoma City area from fans at the Colonial in Fort Worth.
“Oklahoma is definitely part of who I am,” Fowler said. “That’s never going to go away. Even though it was only two years here I love Stillwater and getting back when I can. I love hanging around Tulsa. Oklahoma is a great place. I wish I could spend more time here.”
Fowler is committed to playing in the Patriot Cup. At this year’s event Fowler was paired with Major Dan Rooney, who six years ago founded the Folds of Honor Foundation which raises money for college scholarships for families of military members injured or killed in service.
“I really hope this keeps fitting into my schedule the way it has,” Fowler said. “There are bigger things out there than golf. It’s a pretty special deal to spend the day here with Major Dan and everyone else. It’s a great cause.
“It definitely fits with Memorial Day. Major Dan is a pretty incredible person. It’s been great helping him out. It’s the least we can do as golfers. Memorial Day is Memorial Day for a reason. It’s a great to remember those who have given us the freedom to tee it up on a day like today.”