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2006 PGA Merchandise ShowORLANDO, Fla. -- Driving down narrow country roads on the outskirts of Orlando, I suddenly see a mass of cars as the signs direct me into Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge, site of Golfweek's 2006 Golfest.
 
Jammed into any space available - real parking space or otherwise - liscense plates show that people have flocked to the event from all over the Midwest and up and down the eastern seaboard - Michigan, Maryland, Vermont, New York, Tennessee to name just a few.
 
2006 Golfest
Golfweek's Golfest 2006 had over 60 exhibitors that were open to the public.
Bumpers stickers read from, 'I'd rather be golfing' to 'Golfer on board' to 'I'm a Golf Addict.'
 
They have come to the right place as the massive circular practice facility is crowded with over 60 exhibitors. An official event of the PGA Merchandise Show that will get underway in just a few days here in Orlando, this is the third year the general public has been treated to what is billed as a 'golf lifestyle extravaganza.'
 
Along with the usual suspects of the large club manufacturers such as Ping, Callaway and Nike, many other booths fill the area.
 
There was the Flordia Hospital Wellness Pavillion which was offering massages, blood pressure checks and joint screenings that were geared toward the avid golfer. An added bonus upon walking into the tent was seeing The Golf Channel's 'Big Break IV' contestant Thomas Blankvoort, who chatted up visitors who wandered into the tent.
 
Speaking of names, throughout the day appearances were made by world-renowned golf instructor David Leadbetter, the PGA Tour's Skip Kendall, Suzy Whaley and 2004 World Long Drive champion Dave Mobley.
 
Fans at Golfest were also treated to a trick-shot performance by Peter Johncke, who blends quite a bit of humor to go along with his impressive array of trick shots.
 
After hitting a few balls from a couple of different types of new drivers, I made my way over to the putting green to test out the slew of putters that were made available to the public. Between all the drivers, the irons, the hybrids and the putters to choose from, I started to feel that the rule of having just 14 clubs in your bag at once just seemed way too low.
 
Following a quick stop at the beer garden for a refreshment - which ironically was located right next to the wellness tent - I headed back into the fray and stopped by the Edwin Watts Golf Shops tent. What was basically a mini-version of one of their local stores, the booth had shirts, shoes, clubs, bags among other golf equipment for sale.
 
'This (Golfest) is a good way to promote the game of golf and we felt being here was great idea. It lets the people see the new equipment and test out the clubs,' said Edwin Watts sales rep Bill Blanchard, who was enjoying talikng and helping the passing crowds of golfers. 'Some people don't think you get a true feel of a club when hitting in the store, so this offers them a chance to see the whole ball flight when hitting the clubs.'
 
2006 Golfest
PGA Tour player Skip Kendall put on a clinic for the fans who turned out at Orange County National Golf Club.
Many golf courses from in and around the Central Florida area were also using the event to help promote their courses, as were existing and new resort and golf housing developments.
 
One such booth was Florida Space Coast Golf, which is touting the area as an alternative golfing destination to Las Vegas. Located on the east coast of Florida, the FSCGA (Florida Space Coast Golf Association) promotes eight golf courses in and around Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach. With a couple of gambling cruise ships docked at nearby Port Canaveral and plenty of sunshine and sandy beaches, it sounds like a win-win situation.
 
Said Executive Director of the FSCGA Mike Floyd, ' What's better than a little R&R with a little G&G (golf and gambling) thrown into mix.'
 
But the best thing about this event is that due to its recent success the show will hit the road and start touring around the country. Stops include Ft. Lauderdale (Feb. 4-5), Houston (Mar. 4-5), Charlotte (Mar. 25-26), Raleigh (Apr. 1-2), Atlanta (Apr. 21-22), Chicago (Apr. 29-30), Dallas (May 6-7) and San Diego (May 20-21).
 
PGA MERCHANDISE SHOW COVERAGE:
Thursday, Jan. 26 ' Saturday, Jan. 28
LIVE from 1 ' 3 p.m. ET
Replays 10:30 ' 11:30 p.m. ET
 
Related Links:
  • Buy the Big Break V Calendar
  • Full Coverage - 2006 PGA Merchandise Show