For this week’s column, we flipped the script as Sid and HS Editor, JB, asked questions to our pal, Keith Mitchell (so… Hey Keith?!), who was beaming in via videoconference from North Berwick, Scotland, as he prepared to play in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, which begins Thursday. Here is the transcript.
Sid: Whoa! You look like Tony Jacklin! (laughs) Looks like it’s a tad chilly outside.
Keith: It’s perfect – it’s like... 63 and windy. So it’s PERFECT golf weather, in my opinion.
Sid: Man, first off congrats on getting into the 150th Anniversary of the Open Championship at St. Andrews, and best of luck this week. Second, I’m glad you were willing do this… so thank you.
Keith: Thank y’all. Let’s do it…
Sid: We wrote about you on the column once before, which talked about how our partnership all came together and your approach to golf. One year later and you’re still the only guy on Tour wearing natural fabrics. This makes you a little bit old school and a bit of a trailblazer all at once… what was the response from your friends and peers? Do you guys on Tour talk about clothes?
Keith: Well the driving factor of the tour is that most people are required to wear something by their sponsor, which means they are told what to wear. And they’re told they need to wear this new model of pant that just came out, and we’re going to push it for the next 6 months… and then the next pair and we’re going to push this color, with this shirt, and so on. And I was the first person in a while who started by identifying what I wanted to wear, and making sponsorships work around that… and that was where you guys were thankfully willing to come along with me.
So that’s the beauty of it; a lot of guys might not wear what they wear on the course now, if they had the option. Now, they’re required to wear it because they’re getting paid to wear it. So it’s not all bad. But I feel like there is little bit of jealousy from some guys… because they’ll see the cashmere sweaters and the wool pants this week and will be like “wow that’s perfect, but I’m required to wear something else.”
JB: On that note, what does a packing list for the British Open look like?
Keith: It’s the easiest one to pack for because I just bring all my best stuff from all seasons. If it was going to be really hot like a typical summer tournament stateside, I’d just bring seersucker and pique polos and call it a day. But in Scotland you never know – it could be 52 and raining sideways or can be sunny, 70 and no wind. So instead of worrying about the weather I throw every one of my favorite things in my suitcase and then look every morning to see what fits the weather that day.
JB: We spend a lot of time in this column talking about outfitting based on occasion or travel - how do you typically put outfits together on the road?
Keith: I have it down to a science. I wear my louder pants with a very simple polo because I want the pants to show off. And when I have a fun-colored polo, I’ll wear a light gray or a navy trouser to let the shirt show off a little bit.
Now this week I’ll be focusing mostly on a sweater-pant combos each day, with a polo underneath. So that’s been fun because I’ve got a few extra levers to pull. If temps are in the 60s, I’ve got the fine-gauge cashmere, but if it’s in the morning and it’s cold and might have some mist, I’ll double up and wear a half-zip cashmere over the fine-gauge. It's so thick that it actually acts like a rain jacket on the misty mornings. Because you honestly just wipe it off and it’s gone!! I discovered this the other morning when I accidentally ran my arm underneath the shower – it just wiped right off. Anyway, this is good for me because unless it’s a downpour (in which case I’ll have an umbrella and rain gear on) - I can be very versatile without needing much extra gear. I’ll wear the thick sweater over the thin sweater and peel ‘em off when I need to.
Sid: We kinda joke that cashmere used to be on a goat, and a goat was pretty much made to withstand the elements. And that’s what the sweaters are meant to do for you. The fabrics you’ll be wearing this week are almost like they were made for this… cashmere sweaters really became renowned in Scotland, and our high-twist wool is from the middle of north England, which is not far.
Keith: I’m going high-twist pants all week, and honestly, before I started working with you guys, I had no idea what it was, knew nothing about it. I left our initial meeting with two pairs of those on December 31st, 2020, and they are still with me in this suitcase today. The way the material is made is that it falls naturally, so it doesn’t really wrinkle, and holds its shape. No matter what you put them through – the mud, the bunkers, the hot & the cold, the dry cleaners – they have this incredible ability to bounce back to the original state of the pants. They’ve been by far my favorite, so much so that we got some MTM fabrics this year specifically for the Open.
JB: What about for the other 51 weeks of the year? This is the one week where you aren’t “following the sun,” so to speak.
Keith: The polo stays the same for me, week in, week out, which is y’all’s Pima Pique. Nothing against the other polos you make, but it’s the most all-around polo you can buy. It goes well under a sweater if it’s cold, it breathes if it’s hot. A lot of polos these days are flimsy and stretchy and are very one dimensional. This one is universal - it can lean more formal because of how the collar stands up, especially under a blazer; however, undo a button or two, let the collar open a little bit, and all the sudden it’s casual. I have them in a ton of colors, but would say my go-tos are white, light blue, or pink – they go with nearly every pair of trousers, and they don’t show sweat, so you get the best of both worlds.
Pants are all depending on the weather. If it’s low 80s and higher, it's seersucker all day. The fabric is light and easy, and as Sid taught me - only 50% of the pant touches you on any given time, so it’s literally cooler that way! And it doesn’t stick to you when you start to sweat. The best part are the monochromatic colors... and here’s why: if you wear a white and blue stripe seersucker, and then a white and green stripe or a white and brown stripe, it’s going to get old, fast. People would say “this guy wears these striped pants every day!” (laughs) You’d want to wear that once a week, maybe. But if it’s all one color, I can wear the navy twice, a green, and then a brown, and people aren’t like “oh, this guy is dressing outlandishly!” And that’s what I love about them – they’re an under-the-radar flex. From afar they look navy but from close up, you’re like “wait, what is that?”
Sid: We’re gonna put you on the floor, man, you know more about clothes than we do!
Keith: Oh and for below 82, it’s high-twist all day long.
Sid: Okay so I never played competitive golf but I played a LOT of football growing up. It’s late in the game, I’m on defense, and they’ve got a passer… how do I play it – do I drop back, do I rush? I’m think of you in the same boat – you’re making the turn to the back 9 on Sunday…. you’re 2 shots down. What’s your mindset?
Keith: I look at it as playing blackjack, and playing blackjack by the book. So no matter how many chips you’ve got, or how your betting is, you always play by the book, because it gives you the best odds. So if I’m 3 down, I’m not going to try and make the hero shot… because my chances might go up by 5% but they’re down by 95% the other way. So golf, as an individual sport, finishing 2nd, 3rd, or 4th is still really, really good, because you’re playing against 150 guys. So I’ll play by the book for 71 holes, which means I’m playing with a certain amount of variance towards the middle of the green. And if I am 2 back with 1 hole to go — and there’s not like, out of bounds right behind the pin or something — then I’ll go for it. If the 18th hole is like St Andrews, that green is so big you’re able to take it on, no matter where the flag is. Sometimes you double down and you press. And if it happens to be on the 18th hole, then I’m good. But you never double down if you’ve got a 4 and the dealer has a queen… you don’t do it. And that’s how I look at it. We have our system, and how to play it, but if we have a chance to win the Open this Sunday and I’m standing in the 18th fairway, I’m going right at it.
Sid: So in other words, you play YOUR game? That’s not just a golf question and a golf answer, that’s a life question and a life answer. We’ll end on rapid fire…
JB: Favorite course in America?
Keith: The Honors Course.
Sid: You’re probably one of the few guys on the tour that plays vinyl records at home… first concert?
Keith: Jason Aldean (laughs)
JB: You are a bit of a gourmand… best meal you’ve had in the last two years?
Keith: Big Mama’s Pork Sandwich with a Kalik, from Black Fly Lodge, Abaco Bahamas. It’s as much about where you have to be in order to enjoy it, as how incredible it tastes. Best of both worlds!
Sid: You like watches - what’s your favorite watch?
Keith: Oh! Great question! It’s a Laurent Ferrier, do you know who he is? He was a race car driver, lost to Paul Newman in Le Mans, then worked for Patek for 37 years. Decided to start his own line in 2008, and he makes a few hundred watches a year. My buddy is a watch dealer, and he called me and said this is a unique 1 of 1. The dial is jade, but it doesn’t scream at you… it is SUPER cool.
Sid: That is a smokin’ watch, but the nice thing about it is, it doesn’t jump off the wrist.
Keith: I know! No one has any clue.
Sid: Back to music – do you have a desert island record island? Or two?
Keith: Marcus King Carolina Confessions, and BB King Live at the Regal.
JB: First hole in one?
Keith: The Little Course, Aspen Grove, in Franklin TN, an 8 iron from 122 yards. I was 9 years old.
Sid: First tournament win?
Keith: Junior Club Championship, Highlands Country Club. I was 9.
Sid: Whoa! 9 was a big year for you. (laughs)
JB: You’re a car guy, what’s your daily driver?
Keith: 1977 Cherokee Chief S Wide Track.
JB: Favorite Tournament?
Keith: The Masters.
JB: Most stylish golfer of all time?
Keith: Hard not to say Arnold Palmer… it might not be the best answer, but it’s the right answer.
Sid: He was so comfortable in his own skin, he could wear anything and he’d look cool in it. It felt like he never overdressed for anything.
JB: We consider you an honorary Mashburn Man… item-wise, what are your Mashburn “Starting 5”?
Keith: Suede tassel loafers, a white oxford popover, navy canvas jeans, navy blazer, and charcoal flat-front high-twist trousers. Those 5 items could take you from casual all the way to formal - I mean go jeans, tassels and popover and you’re casual, gray trousers and blazer and all the sudden you’re formal.
Sid: We’ll end on this one - do you like Southern Soul BBQ as much as I like it?
Keith: I like it more… (laughs)
Sid: Thank you, pal. All the best for this week… fairways and greens.