It’s impossible not to notice, which in many ways is exactly the point.
In the world of professional golf where presentation matters, colourful artwork in the shape of tattoos aren’t so much taboo as simply never seen.
Until the Australasian and European Tours recently started to allow players to wear shorts during practice rounds we could only guess what was hidden beneath the pleats; we certainly weren’t expecting what Matt Stieger was sporting.
Prepping for this week’s ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth tournament at Lake Karrinyup on Tuesday morning, Stieger’s legs stand out from two par-5s away.
“It’s a conversation starter for sure,” Stieger says walking up the ninth fairway.
“I don’t really know anyone on the Aussie tour that’s got any visible tattoos.
“James Nitties has one on his bicep that you can see every now and again with his shirt but as for very visible like mine are, hardly any.
“You get some pretty funny looks on the putting green but if people actually have the time to come up and ask what they mean I can explain it to them and they often say, ‘That’s really cool.’”
Finding someone without tattoos in a scan of 20-something men in a social setting is the modern equivalent of Where’s Wally yet it hasn’t – visibly anyway – transferred extensively into the ranks of the world’s leading golfers.
Boo Weekley – hardly the traditional golf archetype – has a sleeve of tattoos on each arm and Rickie Fowler has some small ones up near each bicep but in terms of tattoos that stop you in your tracks, Stieger certainly stands out from the crowd.
Following a tradition started by his father, Stieger’s first tattoo was that of a spider on his right shoulder on his 18th birthday. Since then he has collaborated on designs with Sydney-based tattoo artist Ben O’Grady at Stone Heart Body Art, each one with a very personal meaning connecting him to family.
“Dad always said I couldn’t get a tattoo until I designed my own and it has to have a meaning,” explained Stieger, who finished tied for 17th at last week’s Vic Open and will play predominantly on the Asian Tour in 2019.
“I designed my back piece which is a red-crested cockatoo with a king brown snake wrapped around it.
“The red-crested cockatoo is one of the rarest birds in the world which I see myself as, rare person, one-of-a-kind.
“The king brown snake is one of the only snakes that actually attacks, it doesn’t run away. I see that in my personality. If I want something I’m going to work hard and get it rather than run away from it.
“I lost all of my grandparents in the space of two years so my left leg is representative of my grandparents on my Dad’s side and my right leg my Mum’s grandparents.
“They pushed me with anything that I did and were always a big part of my life and to lose them all within two years pretty quickly… this is a reminder all the time which is good.
“It’s more personal so when people ask about them and I explain their meaning they understand and appreciate them a lot more.
“When you’re travelling around it can get quite lonely out there so it’s a bit of a reminder. They were always massive supporters of my golf and what I wanted to do.”
Nominating the spot at the back of the knee as the most tender part of the body that he has had tattooed to date – “Behind the back of the knee was pretty tender” – Stieger says he will complete his right leg tattoo when his exploits on the golf course warrant it.
“If I play well and do a few things that I want to do I can reward myself with getting tattoos,” said Stieger, who spent a total of 25 hours across four sittings getting his left leg completed.
“My goal last year was to finish in the top-30 on the Order of Merit and I just snuck in on 30th so I got to finish my left leg tattoo.
“This year I’ll definitely get the right one finished and then move on to another part of the body.”
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