Looking for Magic in Orlando

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 28, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 PGA Merchandise ShowORLANDO, Fla. -- If youre attending the PGA Merchandise Show then its just fine to float freely among the 1,200-plus booths; dabble in this, dawdle in that. Take it all in and enjoy the experience.
If youre covering the extravaganza, however, you need a P.O.A.
When working the Merchandise Show you must have a purpose, a mission, a plan of attack. Or else youll end up lost and confused, unable to process and decifer this golf product overload.
Eric Dickerson
This is the Eric Dickerson look we were hoping to find.
According to PGA of America officials, there are more than 1,200 manufacturers of golf-related materials showcasing their wares in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). Combined, they are said to comprise some 10 miles of exhibit aisles.
And so I wondered: In all of this controlled chaos, how can one manufacturer distinguish itself from another? What can a company or individual product-maker do to stand out and draw the crowd in like Tim Herron to a table full of Krispy Kremes?
The first thing I decided was to look through the list of attendees and see if anyone possessed a name that really stood out. There was Accu-this and Birdie-that. Over a thousand names familiar, unfamiliar and non-descript. And then I saw this: Eric Dickersons MagicBelt.
I now had a mission: to find out exactly what was Eric Dickersons MagicBelt. I was hoping that there would really be magic in the belt, but somehow I believed this to be a bit of false advertising. But what I really wanted to see was the display; I wanted to see an image ' whether on the box or on a big poster promoting the product ' of an early '80s Dickerson.
There have been athletes who wore goggles, and there have been athletes who have sported the Geri curl, and plenty of them have grown a mustache. But nobody combined the three looks like Dickerson (A.C. Greens a distant second). He looked like a cross between former San Diego Charger running back Chuck Muncie and Darrell Jenks from Coming to America.
With purpose, I arrived at the OCCC on the first day of the Merchandise Show. I also had a job to do, which was to write a story on any interesting knick-knacks or gadgets ' anything outside the driver-iron-putter-balls angle.
So, my P.O.A. was to do a blind search for the Eric Dickersons MagicBelt booth, stopping at any other sites that caught my attention along the way.
I figured this was the closest I could come to avoiding prejudice; though, I couldnt actually avoid prejudice since I would be making pit stops at place that I found appealing.
As I entered the building from a back end, I needed only to take a few steps before I heard the sound of an electric guitar.
I followed it like a sailor to a siren and ended up at the OGIO booth. There, a young man finished tuning his guitar and began to belt out 'No Woman, No Pride' in a strained voice ' and it was barley 9:00 a.m.
Thats us. Thats our lifestyle, said OGIO president David Wunderli. We want to keep golf young at heart.
According to Wunderli, OGIO has been around since 1987, making gear bags for sports more active and X-treme than golf, like snowboarding. In 98 they got into the golf game and are now pitching a product called the Shling.
Its as easy to put on as a single-strapped bag, but its two, Wunderli said.
The Shling features a padded combination handle and yoke that allows the player to lift the bag with one hand and place it around the back of the neck. It has flexible bridges and pads, designed to conform to the wearers shoulders. It also balances well so that there is no bag tipping or uneven weight distribution involved.
The full display of bags showed a wide variety of vibrant colors and styles (one style being Punk). They also offered plenty of convenient features, such as a zipper-less ball pocket, internal cell phone pockets, and an external three-ball clip holder (like you see in the center dash of a golf cart). Prices range from $119-250.
I left to the sound of Green Day, and eventually made my way past a sweet, cherry red Lamborghini.
Weve been in the golf business for four years, said Luigi Palumbo, president of PALGOLF srl.
Who knew?
Apparently, Lamborghini makes a full golf line, including clubs, balls, bags, shoes, gloves and apparel.
Palumbo said most of their stores are throughout Europe and Asia, but that they did have locations in major U.S. markets like New York, L.A., Miami and Phoenix.
We have grown rapidly. We started from scratch, said Palumbo, who added that a set of irons ranges from $600-800. The name helps a lot. You want to promote a new brand in the market, it helps to be recognized already.
And it helps to have a sweet, cherry red Lamborghini on hand to attract an audience. But I couldnt help but wonder: Where was the beautiful car model?
Manufacturers are at the Merchandise Show to promote their products, which will increase sells. And nothing sells better than sex.
And there was plenty of it.
There were the Ray Cook girls, who walked around in midriff-revealing shirts and short shorts. There were the girls of Bushnell, whom you could see just fine in their matching golf shirts and skirts. And there were the girls of eGolfScore, who donned form-fitting t's asking the sexually suggestive question, Have you scored lately?
But nobody promoted sex quite like the boys at Hollrock.
Hollrock, a division of Pareto, sells golf range equipment supplies and accessories, such as ball picker-uppers (technical name) and the RoboT, an automated teeing up device.
We sell range products, which is a bit boring, said Hollrock CEO Craig Treharne.
And yet there were more than a handful of people ' men ' milling about their space.
Maybe it was the oversized posters hanging above their open-area booth featuring a well-endowed woman with a golf ball between her breasts. Or the one of a close-up of a womans pursed red lips, with a caption that read: Ball Blower. Or the one of a woman in platform shoes, Daisy Duke jean shorts and very tight top bending over to tee up her golf ball. Or perhaps it was the pair of real-life ladies in platform shoes, Daisy Duke jean shorts and tight, white tank tops who were modeling the products.
Treharne had a young Englishwoman demonstrate for me the RoboT. I have no idea how the machine works. But I do know that she was so hot that I felt like I should sleep on the couch for just having said hi.
After coming to the unfortunate conclusion that I had no more questions to ask about range equipment, I forced myself to move on.
It was then that I realized my mission: booth No. 10429 ' Eric Dickersons MagicBelt.
Come to find out, the MagicBelt didnt have magic in it after all, just magnets. According to CEO and founder Donald Rauscher, each belt has about 18-20 magnets in it which helps to increase the blood flow through the sciatic nerve and back.
It breaks up clusters of blood cells to make the blood stream more efficiently, he said.
He added that Dickerson was a reluctant user of the product, but that now hes a true believer.
Eric Dickersons MagicBelt
Mission Accomplished: Eric Dickersons MagicBelt
Rauscher knew he had the NFL Hall of Fame running back hooked when Dickerson called him a couple of years ago and said, Don, I have drawstring pants on right now and Im wearing the Belt.
Rauscher has used Dickersons name and contacts to help promote and distribute the MagicBelt. He lists everyone from Robert Goulet to Tiger Woods as people who wear his invention, which is designed to be worn on the course or out on the town.
Alas, there was no picture of Dickerson with the Geri curl. There was an image of him in a slightly-altered version of his old L.A. Rams uniform ' and he did have on the goggles and the mustache. But it just wasnt the same.
Impressed with the pitch, but depressed over the imagery, I began the long walk back with the 'Soul Glo' song in my head.
On my way out I came across one last booth that caught my attention. It was for Gotta Have It Golf, who offers memorabilia, like framed pictures and portraits; artist drawings and montages; plenty of moments captured and autographed by the participants.
Their most expensive item on display was a huge wall-sized case that featured original Masters badges from 1975-2005, as well as photos of each winner and their autographs. It was going for $12,500.
But what I really liked ' what initially caught my attention ' was not golf related at all. It was a $295, signed Nolan Ryan picture of him punching Robin Ventura in the head.
An enlarged, framed photo of Ryan beating Ventura like he owed him money was great. But what made it classic is that it had Ryans signature on it. Someone had to take this up to him and say, Mr. Ryan, will you please sign this picture of you treating Robin Ventura like a Stooge? And Im sure he responded, My pleasure.
Just wonderful.
After that, it was time to go. I knew as much because my feet hurt from what felt like a 10-mile walk. Time to go home and soak my feet in a tub full of magnets.
But before that maybe I should go back and find out how a range ball washer works.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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    NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

    NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

    NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

    Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.


    For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.





    Avg. Viewers P2+
































    • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
    • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
    • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.


    Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

    • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

    NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

    Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

    Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.

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    Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

    By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

    A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

    The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

    The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

    Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

    Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

    "This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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    LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

    By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

    The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

    While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

    The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

    The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

    An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

    The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

    The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

    “Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

    While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

    The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

    For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

    Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

    Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

    Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

    Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

    March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

    March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

    April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

    April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

    June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

    June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

    June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

    June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

    July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

    July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

    July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

    Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

    Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

    Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

    Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

    Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

    Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

    Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

    Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

    Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

    Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

    Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million