The Big Show – PGA Merchandise Show Opens

The rush at opening time for the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
The rush at opening time for the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

The annual PGA Merchandise Show opened to much fanfare on Thursday.  PGA Tour legend Jack Nicklaus was on hand to kick off the 1st day of floor activities with a speech that emphasized the need to grow the game, especially when it comes to bringing kids into the game.

It’s all part of an initiative by the PGA of America called Golf 2.0, something most media here is Orlando are still trying to decipher.  It seems to be a rich in talk but short in plans so far but hopefully that will be clarified in coming days.

As it is for most attendees, it was a busy day for the Flagstick team at the show – trying to sort through some 1,000 vendors can be cause for your feet to rage in protest.  Add that to the massive demo day that took place on Wednesday, where endless numbers of balls were struck, and you know there were a lot of sound sleeps last night.

Highlights of day one (among many) –

– Caught up with former Pinehurst Resort Director of Communications Janeen Driscoll who now handles most travel portfolios for Buffalo Communications.  We discussed an array of their clientele and the plans at those destinations.  Among those on our radar for the year ahead will be Kauai (Hawaii), Sweetgrass (Michigan), PGA National (Florida), Salish Cliffs (Washington State), and Sandestin (Florida).

– One of our next stops was also travel related.  Allan Minto of Golf East Lothian was in the Scotland Travel area.  Minto, who was one of our hosts during a Road Trip to the Home of Golf in the Fall of 2010, updated us on a rebranding for Scotland Golf Coast and the preparations for the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.  That includes a new 25 room lodge at Craigelaw Golf Club just down the road from Muirfield in the picturesque village of Aberlady.

– We spent some time with Mike Foley of FootJoy.  The topic of the day was a feature we are preparing on women’s footwear for our 2012 Flagstick For Women issue.  Foley expanded on their process to come up with women’s shoe designs and how the market varies from what they do for men.

-Next up was delving into the booth swathed in orange at Cobra-Puma Golf.  While Lexi Thompson held court with some interviews we talked with Canadian marketing staffers Curtis Begg and Peter Chiapetta to talk about the impact of Rickie Fowler on the brand and the big push the company was making at the show.

-Early afternoon involved a forty-five minute session with TaylorMade Golf CEO Mark King along with key executives John Kawaja, Benoit Vincent, David Bradley, and Richard Sullivan.  It was an animated look at the new products the company is rolling out this year.  King said that last year was the most successful for TMaG in history in regards to sales and profits.  He said he was bullish on their future despite the market still being flat.  We’ll have more in a future story.

-With no time to spare (literally) I ran the length of the PGA Show floor (about a half mile) to make an interview time with Titleist wedge guru Bob Vokey.  As always Vokey was gracious and provided plenty of material for a feature we will be publishing on wedges this year in Flagstick.  After the formal part of our talk, Vokey was happy to relate a couple of funny stories (not all details I can publish). The Montreal born Vokey recalled a visit he made in his younger days to Gatineau, Quebec to play in a broomball tournament.  The end result was not a victory for his team but he is sure they were tops in the race to drink the most beer.  It’s hard to find a nicer person in golf and “Da Voke” is as excited as ever for the year ahead and the reaction consumers will have to his new wedge designs.

-The last formal stop of the day was a rolling one that included check-ins at Fourteen Golf, SKLZ Training aids, Graphite Design, and STX Golf.

There was plenty more that filled out the day (and evening with Nike Golf and Visit Ireland receptions) we expect more of the same on Friday.

Just how frantic is the PGA Show?  I’m guessing the #1 hashtag on Twitter for show mentions is #sensoryoverload

Time to slip on the comfortable shoes and get the day started…