Proud 90 puts the fun in funky fashion collection

Apparel brand founder Rick Versace Jr. took a look at Rickie Fowler — his fashion, not his game — and created a line of polos with a playful vibe for the rest of us

Proud 90

His name is Tank. He is a stately Great Dane, which may be redundant.

Tank is the face of Proud 90, a new-ish, successful player in the oh-so-competitive golf polo market. Proud 90’s logo is a silhouette of Tank standing guard on a green with a flagstick in the background. Tank is cool.

“When I first started the company, the logo was a duck,” says Rick Versace Jr., founder of Proud 90 and Tank’s owner. “I was scrambling to find something else but I couldn’t do some other dog. I decided to immortalize Tank in the brand.”

Proud 90 seems as if it’s having way too much fun. Its golf polos, found at Proud90.com, feature fun prints that range from blindingly bright to artistic florals to semi-hilarious giant donuts, little dinosaurs and one with pool floaty toys in the shapes of flamingos, toucans and unicorns. The prints have names such as Pineapple Party, Reptar, Tequila Sunrise, Bomb Pops, Palm Beach Vice and Neon Orange.

This is all pro golfer Rickie Fowler’s fault. Not the Neon Orange, the whole line.  

“I saw a photo of Rickie wearing floral shorts, an unbuttoned shirt and no shoes and I thought, 'Sure, he can get away with that because he’s Rickie Fowler,'” Versace says. “The rest of us have to wear the buttoned-up country club look. I thought, how can I take that fun Rickie in Hawaii vibe and apply it to the average golfer? Golf is the only place you can get away with wearing the funkiest stuff you can imagine.

“I’ve heard that 90 percent of amateur golfers never break 90. That’s where our name came from. I’ve only shot in the 80s a handful of times but I’m proud to shoot 90 or higher. If you’re shooting 90, 100, 110 and you wear our shirt, you’re saying, ‘Listen, I’m just here to have a good time regardless.’ We tried to create a style and brand voice where people could feel included.”

Everybody, it seems, is chasing a piece of the global golf apparel business. That lucrative pie was $834 million in 2020 and is expected to nearly double to $1.5 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.

Some other non-traditional rivals include William Murray (the comedic actor), Bogey Boys (rapper Macklemore), Bad Birdie, Brady (yes, that quarterback) and Rhoback, to name just a few. Of course, a few other little companies are in that segment, too —Nike, Adidas, UnderArmour, Callaway, Cutter & Buck, Peter Millar, Lacoste, TravisMathew. The competition is thick.


Until two years ago, Versace worked for his father’s ground transportation company doing sales and marketing for eight years. Before that, he worked in finance for Goldman Sachs in New York City. He tired of the 12-hour days and making money for someone else.

He wanted to run his own company but his first try was an expensive swing and a miss. It was an innovative idea called REMO— Rewarding Motivation. Customers scheduled a gym workout, then wagered money they would show up and do it. Those who didn’t work out lost their wagers, which were divided among the winners. There was a $500 payout once but by the end, it was yielding 25 cents to the “winners.” Coding for the app cost a small fortune and REMO closed after two years.

 “I underestimated how many gym rats there were,” Versace says. The gym rats were going to work out, regardless, while the newer members who missed workouts quickly tired of losing money.

The setback led to a meeting with a very successful e-commerce businessman who suggested Versace try something simpler. Find a physical product you like, he said. Buy it for X, sell it for Y and forget the complicated mobile app.

Thus, Proud 90 was born despite the fierce competition for golf-shirt dollars. Versace initially sold the shirts out of the back of his golf cart. He’d send pictures to friends and family and other golfers. “It was a side hobby, no marketing, I’d maybe make 10 sales a month,” he says. “It paid for my golf addiction.”

His first shirt was called Tropic Thunder, a Hawaiian-style shirt in golf polo form. Versace used South Florida manufacturers at first but switched to Asia after six months. “I was hesitant with the language barrier and everything but that’s what they do over there — manufacture things — all day, every day. It got us on the right track.”

When the pandemic hit in 2020, his dad’s ground transportation business dried up. Two months into the lockdown, Versace decided to make Proud 90 his full-time business. He learned social media marketing on the run and worked on new and better designs for his shirts, better material, and a better website.

Proud 90 shirts sell for $79. The shirts are stretchy, comfortable and durable. And, of course, the designs are attention-grabbing.


“I thought our target audience would be 25- to 35-year-olds who are crappy at golf,” Versace says. “As we got rolling, the majority are more in the 35- to 45-range, closely followed by 45- to 55. We’re not cheap. I don’t know a lot of 25-year-olds buying $80 shirts. At a certain age, people seem to go, ‘I don’t give a s--- what people think anymore.’ They’re our customers, versus the 20-something frat brothers.”

Five people work at Proud 90’s office warehouse in Boca Raton, Florida. A director of sales is based in Chicago, there are 13 independent sales representatives and another four or five employees who handle digital marketing. In just over three years, Proud 90 has sold close to 100,000 shirts.

The lineup has expanded to hoodies, women’s apparel, hats and quarter-zips. Since June, due to its popular designs, Proud 90 is in 150 golf course shops around the country. Versace’s lofty goal is 1,000 golf shops.

Proud 90’s king of the hill is Pineapple Party, a white shirt covered with large, multi-colored pineapples. “It’s our best-seller by a two-to-one margin,” Versace says. “So we made it in black, too.”

Reptar, the small dinosaur-figure print, is also a big seller. Versace has a stable of what he calls Forever Shirts, the most popular prints, and a handful of seasonal prints, which come and go. The idea is to keep updating the lineup so it’s always fresh.

A handful of solid-color shirts are available, including electric green and midnight black. But Versace says the numbers don’t lie — the wilder the print, the better the sell-through.

"There’s a fine line between a fun golf shirt and crossing the line to where it’s no longer a golf shirt," Versace says. "If I ever saw somebody wearing a button-down polo with dragons all over it, I’d wonder about them."

But if they were Great Danes, well …