Imagine a circular driving range that stretches more than 500 yards in diameter….and around this range are more than 100 vendors that all want to put their products in your hands for a “trial run”. Celebrities and notables could be found including playing great Nick Faldo, instructors Jim Flick and Bob Toski and female professionals Suzann Pettersen and Lexi Thompson. There was also a
celebrity baseball player siting noted below. The range itself, located at Orange County National Golf Center just outside of Orlando, covers more than 42 acres, has 200 hitting stations and several putting greens and short game areas.
Equipment Companies Ping, Titleist, Callaway, Adams, Taylor Made, Nike etc were all on hand—although Cobra PUMA was clearly marketing to a younger audience. They had the most eye catching location that included their new equipment, a “star” appearance made by baseball great Johnny Damon along with activities that included a Las Vegas Style Craps Table, Basketball “Pop-a-Shot”, Air Hockey, a Juke Box upbeat young music and a complimentary beer. Oh yeah, you could also try out their new equipment too! SWSPGA President Michael Haywood was also on hand to check on one of his star pupils Blair O’ Neil from Phoenix who was there representing Cobra PUMA.
Unique products and events included the Tour Striker (Headquartered at The Raven at South Mountain and promoted by Arizona local Martin Chuck), an adjustable “lie” putter, a variety of training aids—several of which looked like they could double for dog training devices and of course it wouldn’t be a true 2012 show if you could not find a new mobile phone “app”. There were several, but my favorite was the Scan4Beer. This app would allow the consumer to download it to their smart-phone at the golf course and allow them to order from off the menu or the beverage cart at any time. The Beverage Cart/Clubhouse would confirm receipt of the message and then text back to let you know your order has been received and the estimated time of arrival or where to pick it up! This service is being offered at No Cost to the golf course. Apparently many of the Liquor and Beer distributers are funding the building of the apps. In researching the company I found out that the idea came from a student sitting in his college dorm room thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just order some beer right off my phone?” Go figure!
The official PGA Merchandise show was kicked off by none other than Jack Nicklaus on Thursday morning at 8:30. A big crowd was on hand for the festivities including local professional Kevin Reagan pictured below. Jack was joined on the Main Stage by the PGA of America Officers along with Ken Griffey Jr who is a member of the Board of Governors for the Boys and Girls Clubs. Country recording artist Julie Roberts added to the festive atmosphere with a live performance at the opening of the show. Jack’s opening comments included “This plan (Golf 2.0) is the most comprehensive that’s ever been put together, it’s not a Jack Nicklaus or PGA of America initiative, it’s something the whole industry needs to be involved in.” as well as a reflective appreciation of all that has been provided to him through the great game of golf.
The Show Floor was a “buzz” of activity for all three days and it was clear that there was more than window shopping going on at many of the locations. The Show floor had almost 50 equipment testing bays, 100’s of apparel vendors and the ever popular New Product Zones continuous flow of “Ah Hahs” and “chuckles” at the newest inventions and ideas. There is also a growing pocket of old school purists in the Clubmakers Guild Connections Center.
Taylor Made Adidas had their best year ever in 2011 with their Driver line and they were showing off the expansion of this product into fairway woods and utility clubs. Their “enormous” space included a separate “entrance” into a nightclub type atmosphere that included putting areas, video games, a concession stand a meeting area and retail counter for Adidas shoes.
Ping attracted a great deal of traffic with a daily “skins” game that introduced the “iPing” putting app to 100’s of professionals who lined up daily to compete in a daily skins game and experience this new teaching/learning tool.
There was no shortage of activities during the evening as well with the Nation Annual Awards Dinner with local PGA Teaching Pro Mike Malaska being recognized as the PGA of America’s Teacher of the Year at a ceremony on Thursday Night. Mike and all of the award winners were recognized for their current achievements as well as their career accomplishments in their respective areas. Mike was appreciative of the award and it was good to see another local professional on the National stage.
Finally the week was filled with “Where’s Don”. Don Rea, Jr. PGA and current vice president of the SWSPGA was everywhere during the week.
Below is a photo summary of many of the things Don participated in during the week.