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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, February 25, 2005

A passion for fashion and golf

 •  Rosales tops SBS Open
 •  Birdie Kim makes it simple, easy

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

KAHUKU — There are days on the LPGA Tour when Jennifer Rosales' sense of fashion is so bold, so colorfully alien to what professional golf is used to that even her playing partners find themselves taking head-swiveling second — and third — glances.

"You just have to smile at some of the (outfits) sometimes," Angela Stanford said.

Like yesterday's burgundy top and black bicycle-style shorts combo wrapped in a thick, cowboy-width belt, for instance. No staid khaki for the sassy Rosales.

Since joining the tour six years ago, the one they call "J-Ro" has set a determined free-spirited fashion pace that screams golf is cool.

Yesterday, the Philippine native was also establishing the standard on the leaderboard, where a 6-under-par 66 was good for a two-stroke lead over Stanford and three others after the first round of the inaugural SBS Open at Turtle Bay.

Rosales' self-assured exhibition of frontier-stretching fashion has opened eyes and opportunities, getting her a soon-to-be-released clothing line with Bally and a place on several sports fashion lists. But it is her golf, of late, that has also properly been making quite a statement.

Last year was a breakthrough campaign for the 26-year-old Rosales, who won her first tournament, the Chick-Fil-A, and, very nearly, a major, the U.S. Open, for her first top-10 finish among money leaders.

Now, in this first full-field event of 2005, she seeks to expand upon what she has lacked, consistency of performance, getting off to a quick, solid start. All the more impressive for a round of six birdies and no bogeys in which she hit all the greens and missed but three fairways.

Both profiles, fashion and golf, feed a need to separate herself from the pack; to be a vivid individualist in a sport that seems to cultivate homogenization of its participants.

"I always wanted to be different," Rosales said. "Ask my mom, I always wanted to stand out. I have three siblings and I just want to be different than everybody."

Curiously for someone who reveled in more adventurous pursuits — skydiving, bungee jumping, etc. — "anything extreme," Rosales said — growing up in Manila, it was golf that became her passion and, ultimately, her avocation.

And, it is increasingly looking like neither of them have been the same since.

"I think it is cool that she dresses like that and has her own style," Stanford said. "The way she does it is neat. She does a great job at expressing herself and it is good for our game."

Rosales, for the moment, at least, is proof that style and substance need not be mutually exclusive on tour.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.