The Other Side of the Show

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2009 PGA Merchandise ShowORLANDO, Fla. ' The line for Dr. Gary Wirens seminar in meeting room 102A of the Orange County Convention Center on the first morning of the PGA Merchandise Show Thursday was out the door. All seats were taken. And veteran teaching pros filled unoccupied space by sitting on the floor in the aisles.
 
The subject was The Ten Most Important Lessons Learned in 54 Years of Teaching. And No. 1 on the list was, We need to Market as Well as Teach.
 
We need to sell people on how they can enjoy golf, Wiren said. And, he emphasized, this message was more important than ever in these difficult economic times.
 
The PGA of America had rolled out a blueprint on how to deal with the harsh financial downturn last November. And Wiren, among others, was all over it right out of the box Thursday as necks craned and pros hung on his every word.
 
Wiren is a PGA of America Master professional and a member of the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. While most of the sizzle at the Shows first day was out on the merchandise floor, seminars for teaching pros took place most of the day.
 
Wirens message was echoed later Thursday morning in another conference room where the PGA of Americas CEO, Joe Steranka, and the organizations president, Jim Remy, conducted an invitation-only round table discussion.
 
Whats important now, Remy said, is to go back and re-visit our occasional customers.
 
Yes, Steranka said, many of the topics for the close to 70 seminars offered to club pros and scheduled over the three days of the Show, were tailored to help deal with the stresses of a damaged economy.
 
This is a critical time for the golf industry, Steranka added. In relative terms, I think golf is going to do better than many industries.
 
Better, Remy said, if golfs teachers meet the challenge of getting players outside and into the game. Its a wonderful sport, Remy said. Its about a ball and a stick. And you cant play it on a computer.
 
Every year at the Show club pros attend seminars to earn Member Service Requirements (MSR) to maintain their active status in the PGA of America. Every three-year cycle members must earn a minimum of 54 MSR credits and 12 of them must be about continuing education.
 
The seminar subjects vary widely and some even sounded intriguingly amusing. A few examples:
 
Rules ' You are the Expert, The Power of Special Orders, Natural Disasters ' Be Prepared, and the ever popular, Shrinkage ' Oh Those Missing Demo Clubs!!
 
Wiren has been filling seminar meeting rooms for years at the Show. And, in case you were dying to know, the topics of his other nine most important lessons were, in order:
 
Have flexibility in your teaching approach; Keep it simple; Strive for mutual commitment; Make it fun; A holistic approach of mind and body; Learning tools and drills make the difference; More time on short game; Golf is most certainly not a game of perfect; and finally: Teach more than golf, leave a legacy.
 
Remember, these are tips for teachers not, necessarily, for players. Members arent tested at the end of the seminars. But attendance is verified.
 
One of the great misconceptions about the PGA Merchandise Show is that it is open to the public. It is not.
 
Another misconception is that club pros are there mainly to place orders for their inventory later in the season. They are also there for the seminars.
 
Theres also a perception among a few that the Show is an excuse for old friends to plan dinners and swap stories over drinks into the wee hours. As one wise man once said, Its hard to negotiate with a hangover.
 
And, who knows, there might have been a few people nursing their wounds at Wirens seminar Thursday.
 
But all of them were paying attention.
 
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