What do U.S. Open champions Steve Jones and Annika Sorenstam have in common? They wear sunglasses, something you would never have seen on a pro golfer five years ago. Today, everyone seems to be wearing a pair of Oakleys, Ray-Bans or Bolles. "I used to be called a rebel," says David Duval, 24, who as an All-America at Georgia Tech was one of the first players to make shades a part of his golf uniform. "Now you've got 25 or 30 guys wearing 'em."
Mainly younger players go for sunglasses. Several veterans think that's because the kids have something to hide—namely, fear. Pat Bradley, for example, says she is unable to read the eyes of a player wearing shades, and that takes away one of her advantages. The sunglasses set, however, doesn't buy into that theory, insisting shades simply make it easier to see. The newer models no longer distort depth perception, a problem with shades in the past. And optical companies are now designing dark glasses specifically for golfers. "The reason I wear them is that I squint a lot in the sun and get headaches," says Sorenstam. "When you squint, you tense up. Sunglasses keep me relaxed. Plus, you definitely see better at times, especially in a bunker, because the sun reflects off the sand. There's no glare." Jones also turned to eyewear to combat squinting.
There are other concerns that make sunglasses a wise choice. Duval and Emlyn Aubrey, among others, wear contacts, and sunglasses keep their lenses from getting dry or dusty. Karrie Webb went to Oakleys because, she says, a friend in Australia contracted eye cancer from too much exposure to the sun. Also, Webb is trying to protect against crow's-feet around her eyes.
And then there is the matter of endorsement deals. Most players are given free sunglasses, but Sorenstam is paid to wear them, which explains why the two-time Women's Open champ keeps them on the bill of her cap when the sun goes down.