Good PGA Show during tough times

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2009 PGA Merchandise ShowORLANDO, Fla. ' By George, theyve done it again. Another successful PGA Merchandise Show has been staged at the Orange County Convention Center. But, not without its share of apprehension on Thursday morning as the doors opened to credentialed industry professionals. Given the state of the economy domestically and indeed around the world, would people come? And, if they came, how many would come?
 
We expected attendance to be down a little bit, said Ed Several, VP and General Manager of PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions. The economy, of course, isnt the best right now. But, people in the golf industry have a reputation of rallying to a cause and supporting the game and the business. I believed all along the show would be a grand success.
 
Thursday was a little quieter than in years past; however, on Friday the elbow bashing barometer ' the universally accepted trade-show indicator that measures how many people smash in to you as you make your way through the miles and miles of exhibition space ' was on full bash.
 
Overall, we enjoyed a very productive PGA Show, said Jeff Fiorini, General Manager of grip manufacturer Golf Pride. There is no question that the industry is filled with a great deal of apprehension about the future. However, we are fortunate to be able to carry a great deal of brand momentum from 2008 into this year. Our product line has never been stronger. Our exposure on Tour has never been better. Again, we are bullish on our ability to come out the other end of this downturn with an even stronger position of leadership in the golf grip category.
 
Titleist was back at the show this year after an absence from the party, and by all accounts, quite pleased by the experience. 'As a stakeholder in the industry, we attended the PGA Merchandise Show to showcase and launch our new products, especially the New 2009 Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls, and to better connect with our partners,' said Peter Broome, VP of Business Partnerships, Acushnet Company. 'We were able to take advantage of the multi-dimensional opportunities such as the Titleist Experience presentations, product expert workshops, and Demo Day, in addition to exhibiting on the Show floor.'
 
According to Michele Szynal, VP of Public Relations for Callaway, the company is pleased. 'For Callaway, the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show was a great opportunity for us to showcase our innovation ' not just our equipment. And, for us, Demo Day is the best part of the Show ' it's where you separate true innovation from marketing hype,' Michele told me.
 
Speaking of Demo Day, the hands-on outdoor golf gear head extravaganza ' of which I am a proud participating gear head ' was in full-swing on Wednesday. HeyI couldnt resist. Orange County National was once again the venue. The huge 360-degree driving range (look up huge in the dictionary and there is a picture of Orange County Nationals driving range) was active with vendors and attendees alike.
 
We love participating at the demo day, Cindy Herington of Adams Golf told me. We think it's a great addition to the show and a fantastic way to experience and test out new product. It's also great to meet and talk to all of the different people involved with the product ' R&D, marketing, custom fitting, salesthe team of people that make Adams Golf such a special company.
 
As an aside to Adams Golf, they sponsor 2008 Remax Long Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski. He was at Demo Day making a special appearance in the Adams Golf hitting area. Remember I told you that the Orange County National driving range is circular in design? Well, normally this isnt an issue. It measures well over 400-yards across so whos going to hit you from the opposing side, right? Apparently they didnt count on Jamie showing up to hit balls. Using his baby driver, and on more than one occasion, people on the other end of the range had to scatter to avoid Jamies incoming. He seemed quite pleased with himself as well. Now granted, it was a little down wind, but, come on. Thats HUGE! Art Sellenger, Jamies Pinnacle Distance Team teammate told me that Jamie wasnt going to be able to use his competition driver that day because hed hit it too far. Baby driver, 400-yards, and a nice kid besides. Geez, Louise.
 
I digress. Nike Golf pulled out all the stops at Wednesdays Demo Day with the appearance of two major champions, Suzanne Pettersen and Trevor Immelman. Both Nike athletes used their valuable time in a very up-close and personal way sharing their thoughts on equipment, demonstrating swing technique, and openly and honestly answering a wide range of questions thrown their way. It was a really refreshing forum, and, Trevor was particularly impressive in his forthrightness; certainly a highlight of Demo Day and the whole show week.
 
Wrapping things up on Saturday, I had the chance to speak with PING veteran Pete Samuels. PING is celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year and Pete reminded me that PING has been at virtually every PGA Merchandise Show since the event had its humble beginnings in 1954 in Dunedin, Florida. Its kind of neat, Pete tells me, John Solheim, Karstens son, can remember helping his dad put together a little tent in the parking lot in the early days of the show. And, a tent was the equivalent of a big booth today, because, most people showed their wares out of the trunks of their cars. To think that PING has come all this way and that we have done so hand-in-hand with the PGA of America and the PGA Merchandise Show is a very rewarding thing.
 
Some final thoughts of mineits tough out there, make no mistake about it. The back-bone of the economy is busted big time and its going to take a long time to fix. There will be consolidation in the golf industry this year and in to next. Major leading golf companies and smaller ones alike have had and will most likely continue to have lay-offs. Its painful, we all feel it, and it isnt going away any time soon. But, I agree with Ed Several: people in the golf industry rally. The golf industry and the business of golf are resilient by nature. Tigers absence certainly hasnt helped the cause and his return will be welcomed by all. It should give the entire world of golf a much needed boost.
 
In the meantime, I felt a positive atmosphere at the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show. The people who did come meant business, they were there to do business, and they did. I spoke to many vendors who told me they wrote much more business at the show than they were expecting. This is in line with the adage that 20% of the buyers do 80% of buying. This seems to ring truer than ever this year in these tough economic times.
 
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