The (Almost) Naked Truth

Tom Kite’s classic workout photos have a legacy beyond the laughs
Tom Kite Workout 27 the almost naked truth

We have some bad news, Mr. Whoever Runs the @Super70sSports feed: Your post, while amusing, is deadass wrong.

Kite’s workout photos from the late 1970s—which have been making the rounds since what seems like the birth of the internet—are a source of endless jokes. But here’s the thing: A direct line can be drawn from Kite’s raised leg to the current fitness explosion in professional golf.

According to the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas—of which Kite is a proud alum—the photos come from a training study commissioned by an Alabama-based company named Diversified Products. One of the company’s offerings was a series of plastic molds filled with a sand-like mixture that people could use for at-home weight training. Back in the 1970s—an era when smoking was still permitted inside public places—this was considered a cutting-edge fitness activity. A group of DP executives participated in a two-month training with the weights and found immediate improvement in their golf games.

This led the company to approach the PGA Tour with what many at the time considered an absurd idea: DP would outfit a tractor trailer that would travel to each event and act as a mobile gym for interested players. Deane Beman, the PGA Tour commissioner at the time, was intrigued, but knew that with pros like Craig Stadler and Bob Murphy winning events without setting foot in a gym, the concept needed some help. They hit upon a plan to get a group of PGA Tour players to be the subjects of a study and show the results of proper fitness training. If players saw their peers gaining distance and lowering scores, surely they would use the new mobile gym too. One snag: Only one person agreed to be monitored.

The rest, of course, is internet meme history. Kite, forever seeking an edge, fully committed. Clad in just his trademark glasses and a pair of short-shorts (which some commenters later called a loincloth), Kite willingly became DP’s guinea pig. The results of his gym session had immediate and long-lasting effects. Beman agreed to the deal, and the first tractor-trailer gym began appearing at Tour stops. By getting more-complete information on which muscles fired when and with how much force, Kite was able to tailor his regimen and get better. He ended up winning 19 times on the Tour, including the 1992 U.S. Open, on his way to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, more and more players began to take a peek inside that tractor trailer. The evolution started slowly, but eventually Big Macs and Cokes started giving way to vegetables and stretching. Today, multiple mobile gyms are an essential part of pro golf’s traveling circus. So the next time someone tries to tell you that Tiger Woods sparked the fitness revolution on Tour, force them to gaze upon Kite’s internet-famous thighs.