I have worn the same shirt while golfing for several years now. It is one of those ritzy numbers with an alligator embroidered on the chest, and bright pink enough to be seen from outer space. It creates quite the contrast against my blue and yellow plaid shorts. The only thing louder than my golf attire is me, when I am trying to excavate my ball from a bunker.
You don’t want golf fashion advice from me. You want it from Lisa Mandile, who while living in Eden Prairie ten years ago founded Tzu Tzu Sport. What began as a fun little passion project grew into a major clothier, which now offers a range of ladies’ attire that looks just as fashionable on the links as it does off.
“I was that little girl who wouldn’t leave the house without a purse and pair of matching shoes,” said Lisa. “I started playing golf while studying retail merchandising at UofM. I’m a tall drink of water at 5 feet 9.5 inches, and finding good clothes would have been difficult enough even if women’s golf attire wasn’t so ugly back then.
“My friends and I all loved golf. We just wanted to look cute, too! I already had a side-business making handbags with one of them, so together we refocused on creating something that would stand out at the golf course – in a good way.
“In the beginning I designed a couple of funky skirts with grommets and chains. I wanted them to look like high fashion à la Chanel, but the fabric I initially chose had to be ironed. Who wants to iron their golf clothes? So I started playing around with Lycra, and I really liked what I came up with.
“I decided to put a few pieces together and see if I could get them on the racks at country clubs. I knew I might lose money, but I just had to put my fashions out there to see if people would like them. I told the pro shop managers that if no one bought my clothing, I would just come back and take it out.
“But pretty soon I saw strangers wearing my clothing out in the wild. Just seeing a woman wearing one of my shirts while shopping at Target felt humbling and exciting. One of my friends even spotted a lady wearing one of my tops at a Vikings game. I didn’t have very much product out there by that point!
“A few years ago Augusta National Golf Club held their first women’s tournament. My phone blew up that day – there was a young woman who must have come into my shop while I wasn’t around, and she was wearing my style on TV! My sales went crazy that day, and we sponsor that golfer now.
“You can have the hottest fashions in the world, but without a good name your brand is dead on arrival. I originally wanted to name my brand Samba Activewear after one of my Shih Tzus, only to find out Adidas has owned the trademark on ‘Samba’ since the ‘70s. I didn’t want to pigeonhole my brand into anything too golfy in case I ever branched out into tennis. So I was staring at a photo of my dog, saying ‘What am I going to do, my little Shih Tzu? My little Tzu Tzu? My little…’
“And I just knew people would remember that. I name most of my styles after dogs to this day.
“Tzu Tzu Sport stood out during a time when women’s golf clothes lacked great function. I don’t believe any other brands offered pull-on golf skirts back then, even though any woman will tell you life gets a whole lot easier without zippers or belts to bother with. Whip it up; whip it down. I also created clothes that were fitted without being skintight. Athletic wear should always complement the body without hindering its natural range of motion.
“We brought a lot of new stylistic elements to women’s golf attire as well. We helped lady golfers embrace the racerback top, which comes from swimwear and makes everyone’s arms look good. (People tell me I have nice, broad shoulders while I’m wearing a racerback, but it’s all just smoke and mirrors.) We also did away with front skirt pockets. All they really do is point to the belly, so I designed a pocket into the side just wide enough to fit a scorecard. I wear it when I walk the dogs because it holds a phone so nicely – and people compliment me, I might add.
“I also make sure my skirts always have a swish. When I walk up to the green, I want to feel my skirt swishing along beside me. There’s no reason you can’t look cute when you’re golfing!
“I’m a little bit of a peacock myself. You’ll always be able to pick me out at a black tie affair – I’ll be the one in hot pink. I’ve always picked vibrant patterns, chic animal prints, and bright, feminine colors for Tzu Tzu pieces – whatever speaks to me, really, which fortunately seems to be what speaks to other women as well. Everyone used to wear khaki and navy at golf courses a decade ago. I’m proud to have helped all I could to put so drab a trend to rest.
“I’ve never believed fashion is frivolous. Whenever you leave your house looking good, you’re going to feel good. Nothing about golf changes that rule!”
Tzu Tzu Sport has progressed beyond the need for a brick and mortar location. To see Lisa’s wide selection of – dare I say it – cute tops, skirts, dresses, and more, then you need only visit tzutzusport.com. Check out the new 2021 collection and you will become the envy of all your friends on the green. (Perhaps not in terms of athletic ability, but that is considerably harder to order online.)