Blog 93, 1/31/11 - PGA Merchandise Show, Lake Padden Results

'Bushwood' - Best Product (well, my choice anyway).
This was my sixth/seventh? PGA Merchandise Show and, like all the rest, it was totally overwhelming. Unless you've attended yourself, it's hard to imagine just how many vendors, PGA pros, retail store buyers, and media personnel squeeze into the Orange County Covention Center in the last week of January each year. Rest assured though, it takes an awful lot of vendors, PGA pros, retail store buyers, and media personnel to fill an exhibition hall with 1.2million sqft of floor space.
Until the official numbers are released this week, it's impossible to know if more or fewer people attended than they did last year. Many folk I spoke with insisted there was significantly more of everything this year - more people, more booths, more business, more buzz etc. But there were others who obviously hadn't picked up the same vibe, saying there were gaps, large and small, where clubmakers, ballmakers, shoemakers, teemakers, handicapping software providers, apparel manufacturers, scorecard designers, trophy makers, golf organziations, eyewear makers etc, etc., used to set up for the week.
Best Heavy Driver
The event started unofficially on Wednesday at the Demo Day at Orange County National GC, where last December's PGA Tour Q School was played. I'd never been to Demo Day before but, having read about the scale of the event, wasn't really surprised to see a 42-acre practice facility ringed by 200+ stands belonging to every golf club or training aid manufacturer you've ever heard of and loads more you haven't.  Are you aware, for instance, of Boccieri Golf, maker of the Heavy Putter and Heavy Wedge series (you might be actually since I've reviewed their clubs here and here). Not content with short game clubs, Steve Boccieri wanted to add some irons, fairways woods and a driver to his product list, each featuring a significant weight at the butt-end of the shaft to promote better tempo and control. The Control Series hits stores next month and I recommend you check out the driver at least. An employee at Scottsdale AZ-based clubmaker Krank Golf arrived at the Heavy Driver stand having destroyed the faces on several other drivers. But try as he might, he couldn't put a dent in the Boccieri Club and actually increased his ball speed from 190mph to 195. I gave it a whack and really liked it despite not quite reproducing the Krank guy's ball speed.
Peter Jacobsen performed his superbly accurate and amusing impressions of fellow professionals while extolling the virtues of Cleveland's new range of drivers, although it was his partner Nico Bollini that produced the best moment with his brilliant rendition of Colin Montgomerie.
Matt Kuchar opened the show officially on the Thursday morning and the usual tide of people fortunate to be employed in the golf industry swept into the main hall like Black Friday shoppers eager to try the latest gear and hopefuly score some swag (I made a conscious effort not to pile up on free stuff this year, partly because I had no room for it in my suitcase and partly because I'm still using free stuff I picked up in 1999).
Best Global Golf Announcement?
One of the first major events on the forum stage was a presentation by the PGA of America, PGA World Alliance, China Golf Association and PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions which will combine to take the 'PGA Merchandise Show' brand to China this year with two shows; the first - the PGA Merchandise Show-China/China Golf Show to be held in Beijing March 18-20, the second - the PGA Merchandise Show-Asia/Asia Golf Show to be held October 20-22 in Guangzhou (yes, that's in China too).
To be perfectly honest, I didn't attend. A week or so before the show I'd received an email inviting all media members to a 'Global Golf Announcement' and, being familiar with the PGA of America's penchant for hyperbole, assumed it wouldn't be terribly exciting - a new agreement between the PGA and China over shared turf research or some such.
Best Exhibit; TaylorMade. Can you spot Golf Channel's Tom Abbott?
The rest of Thursday I checked out some of the bigger booths and, like everyone else that saw it, was blown away by TaylorMade/Adidas/Ashworth's 25,000sqft space at the opposite end of the hall to where the rest of the big-name manufacturers were located. TaylorMade's participation wasn't confirmed until last November when the company decided it needed to make the most of buzz surrounding its new R11 driver and, word has it, the PGA made the company an offer it couldn't refuse. Inside Town TaylorMade was a restaurant, six-person hitting bay where each player was hooked up to a launch monitor, putting greens, meeting space and separate space for both Adidas and Ashworth which the company acquired in October 2008. I spent well over an hour there and didn't even get the chance to hit the R11 so long was the line of people who wanted to try it.
Callaway, Ping, Titleist, Nike, Cleveland, Adams, Mizuno, Wilson and Bridgestone's exhibits were very impressive as usual, but this year they were Christ The King Church to TaylorMade's St Paul's Cathedral.
Friday, always a good bit quieter than Thursday, was a day for visiting some of the smaller booths - especially those belonging to Washington-based companies - hoping to find something brilliant but unmarketed, inspired but unknown, innovative but totally unadvertized. Somewhere hidden deep within the darkest aisles of the OCCC there's always the hope you'll find a garage inventor whose ugly-looking putter makes a strange noise at impact but puts the ball in the hole with satisfying reliability.
Best Bust; Phil Mickelson by David O'Keefe.
On the far southern end of aisle 2900, I found something very special. It won't help your putting, but it was created by a genius and will provide hours of amusement. I spotted it quite by chance while out looking for Sundog eyewear where I was hoping to get five minutes for a Q&A with Paula Creamer. I must admit I forgot all about Creamer when I saw the superb caricature of the 'Caddyshack' cast that was painted by Florida artist David O'Keefe. O'Keefe has studios in Sarasota, FL and Newport, RI and took eight months to paint 'Bushwood' (see image at top) after being commissioned by ball-washer manufacturer Par Aide.
Among the WA-based vendors I visited was Bellingham's own Redden Nets, a division of Redden Marine Supply whose offices are on Roeder Avenue. Redden constructed nets for the driving ranges at Interbay and Jefferson Park in Seattle as well as ranges in St Andrews, Scotland and at the Royal Hong Kong GC. Division Manager Ron Chiabai, told me the week had gone a lot better than expected. "The last two years were really slow," he said. "And I wasn't expecting it to be all that different this year, but actually it's been a lot better. We've had considerably more traffic and had several serious inquiries."
By Friday evening, I was utterly exhausted and happily accepted the offer of free wine at a reception held by Wales Cymru which was obviously looking to continue building awareness of the superb golf on offer in the principality following last year's Ryder Cup.
It was a great show - typically well organized, full of interesting stories, and the perfect place to meet up with friends and contacts. But it's good to be home.

(Another highlight of the show, for me personally at least, was being presented two writing awards at the International Network of Golf Media Awards. The first, in the Business Writing category, was actually for an article I wrote this time last year about the 2010 PGA Merchandise Show. It appeared on The second, also for Cybergolf, was in the Competition Writing category and for an article that argued the FedEx Cup needed a somewhat less confusing format.)

The Winter 5-Man, the seventh event on this winter's Lake Padden Winter Golf Tour takes place this coming Saturday (Feb 5th) and begins with a 9am shotgun. Teams may consist of four amateurs and one professional or five amateurs. The teams will play a four-person scramble each hole, with the fifth team member playing his own ball as a "choker."
The team score will consist of the scramble score and the "choker" score combined.
The scramble team may not use the "choker's" ball at any time. The "choker" ball will rotate each hole to a different player based on handicap. Choker holes: Player 1, lowest handicap of the five players, will play holes 1, 6, 10 and 13. Player 2, the second lowest handicap, will play holes 5, 7, 11 and 15. Player 3, third lowest handicap, will play holes 3, 4,16, and 18. Player 4, fourth lowest handicap, will play holes 9, 14 and 17. Player 5, the highest handicap of the group, will play holes 2, 8 and 12.
Cost is $60 per player which includes green fee, entry fee, food and range balls. 100 participation points are on offer. Call Greg in the pro shop to register or find a team - 360-738-7400.

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