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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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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    Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

    Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

    Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

    The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

    In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.