Hall of Fame golfer Payne Stewart inspired the Knicker Open charity golf tournament, which began in 1992.

Hall of Fame golfer Payne Stewart inspired the Knicker Open charity golf tournament, which began in 1992.

In 1991, the late, great Payne Stewart won the United States Open golf tournament at Hazeltine National in great style. It was his fashion statement wearing knickers that sparked the philanthropic fire in custom clothier Kingford Bavender. As of today his brainchild, “The Knicker Open , has raised more than $875,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities. Smashing!

This year you can participate in the fashionable Good Leadership Happy Hour, following the Knicker Open at 5:30 on Monday, June 22, at Minnesota Valley Country Club in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Why knickers?

Tickets are on sale for the Knicker Open Good Leadership Happy Hour -join us!?

Tickets are on sale for the Knicker Open Good Leadership Happy Hour -join us!?

The history of knickers isn’t flashy. Originally undergarments for women in the era of flowing hoop skirts, men began wearing them in the late 1800s as loose, knee-length trousers for playing sports. An illustrator/journalist Diedrich Knickerbocker introduced them into the New York media…which is how they became known as knickerbockers – “knickers” for short.

A hundred years later, Payne Stewart made knickers sexy. He played more than 450 PGA Tour events wearing smashing knicker outfits – easily becoming the most dashing pro golfer in the modern era.

Fashionable Fundraising

Kingford Bavender (2nd from right) with his son as part of his Knicker Open foursome in 2006.

Kingford Bavender (2nd from right) with his son Kyle as the ringer in his Knicker Open foursome in 2006.

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever expect the Knicker Open to be an annual event that would last for 24 years,” explained Kingford Bavender. In 1992, he concocted the Knicker Open as a ploy to promote custom clothing. Since knickers in 1992 were very uncommon, the only way the players could get them was to have knickers custom-made from Kingford. When 60 players showed up at his first tournament, he knew he was onto something.

In 2007 I played in the Knicker Open in one of Bavender’s custom outfits, and I won the “Best Dressed” male. (I can’t fit into those same knickers today…)

Boosted by funding from the Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club, the tournament grew through the years. Now, 24 years later, thousands of players have participated – united by the fashion statement of knickers and a passion for the kids.

Enter Good Leadership

“Now in our 24th year, we are excited to partner with Good Leadership Enterprises to jump-start the interest in the tournament,” Kingford shared. From the height of the tournament in the late 1990s, participation softened through the Great Recession. “This year we have fantastic sponsor support and the golf is sold out. It’s because we have some new leadership and an exciting new format to benefit the kids,” Kingford grinned.

Happy Hour – open to all 

Happy Hour entertainment provided by Barbary Coast Dixieland Band.

Happy Hour entertainment provided by Barbary Coast Dixieland Band.

Tickets are now available for the Knicker Open Good Leadership Happy Hour – a special event following the golf tournament for non-golfers. Guests will be entertained by the Barbary Coast Dixieland Band, enjoy humorous cocktail speaker Ross Bernstein, participate in a fantastic charitable auction, and crown the Knicker Open champions for 2015. “The highlight of the evening is always the applause for the fashion award winners,” Kingford beamed.

The tournament and Happy Hour is expected to more than double the fundraising totals from the past few years, and accelerate toward Kingford’s vision to raise more than $1 million for the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities. “We had no idea we could make such a huge impact,” he smiled. “All because we were smitten with Payne Stewart’s flair!” 

Good leaders act on their imagination to be fashionably different. And they live generously in ways that inspire others to make life better for kids.

Who doesn’t like Happy Hour, good humor and great fun to benefit kids? Please join us!

Historical note: Shortly after he won his second US Open at Pinehurst, Payne Stewart died in a plane crash in 1999. In the early days of the Knicker Open, he and his family provided memorabilia which was auctioned for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities. Next year will be the 25th Knicker Open, where we expect to exceed $1M in total dollars raised for the kids.