The Calm Before the Storm

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If you listen closely enough, you can hear the sound of a massive front. It is blown upon the winds of hope and expectation and fueled by a convergence of space-age technology and the burning hot winds of thousands of salespeople, hoping that their product can sell, if not only upon merit, then carried upon the wings of robust enthusiasm and bravado. It is, of course, the pending arrival of golfs business Major, the PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
 
The Show opens on Thursday, January 25, and runs until Saturday, January 27. While the Show is not open to the public, it will attract over 43,000 industry professionals, over 1,200 vendors and consume nearly 10 miles of aisle ways.
 
This years PGA Show will mark my 18th consecutive year attending the event. Earlier this week, Adam Barr, the quarterback of our Golf Channel PGA Show coverage, reminded me that between us, we have more than three collective decades of experience at this Show. While his intent was no doubt intended to express the credibility that comes with experience, it made me feel (a little) old none-the-less.
 
For a variety of reasons, both good and bad, it is rare to find people that have been to nearly two decades worth of consecutive shows. In a tribute to their loyalty and dedication, if you were able to find many, they would virtually all be PGA of America members. I think we tend to take for granted the contributions PGA of America Professionals make to the game. The simple reality is that for the last 91 years, PGA of America Professionals have been the sentries at the gate protecting the heritage, traditions and dignity of the game of golf. I have had the pleasure to know, and work with, many PGA of America Professionals and all of them have represented the highest virtues of the game.
 
The broader issue of why the business-side of the game does not honor its veterans is more varied. The simple reality is that golf has become big business. Todays executives do not have the luxury to sit on their laurels, for the crushing competition will devour them if they do not come out with the next new superstar product, virtually on the heels of the one before it. Sadly, gone are most of the bridges to the past, the people, traditions and humble technology that marked an era when an agreement was consummated with a handshake and a mentality that market share was something to be shared; that there was room enough for everybody with the strength and conviction to carve wood and mold forged steel into works of art. It was an era when the Carlsbad of today was the broad-shouldered city of Chicago, of yesterday. When names like Hansberger and Rosasco, and brands like Wilson, Ram and Northwestern controlled a stable of players with names like Byron Nelson, Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Tom Weiskopf , Roberto De Vincenzo and even, Henry Cotton, among many, many more.
 
I had the pleasure of working for some of these great golf-business pioneers. I can recall many an evening when the enigmatic Nat C. Rosasco, the man responsible for bringing the joy of the game of golf into the reach of literally millions of golfers, would quiz me with a simple question. Look at this iron face, he demanded. My father made it with his own hands in 1940, he continued. The face was chipped and dented; looking like it was used to drive nails, rather than golf balls. Just outside of the score-lines were two vertical lines of markings, one toward the toe and one toward the heel. What are those called, he asked repeatedly. His effort was not to trigger my memory, for it was clear I was ignorant, but to underscore the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about. I dont know, I would finally concede. With that, his features would soften as if my admission was that of a generation.
 
Those are called framing lines, his voice changing from that of an interrogator to a teacher. They used them to help the golfer line up the ball to the center of the club face at address. They virtually disappeared from the game when frame lines changed from being manually pressed (or pounded) into the face and were instead, rolled. Today, they just cast them into place and hardly anyone remembers the lost art. The lesson was not lost upon me and to this day, when I view an iron head, the first thing I do is look to see if the face features vertical framing lines to compliment the horizontal lines of the face.
 
Industry conventions are important to any profession and such is the case with the PGA Merchandise Show. Some will complain that the Show is missing this or that, but in the end, the important thing is that at least once a year, the business side of the game comes together to discuss what is good, what is bad, and what needs to change in the game of golf. Most of the big companies are here, although some are not. For my part, I feel that every one of them has an obligation to attend, not due to the owners, buyers and managers of golf shops who they can fly into their factories and wine and dine, but to the rank-and-file members of the industry who grind it out in the trenches everyday and serve the day-to-day needs of the golfing public.
 
I will not deny that I have enjoyed and profited from the proliferation of technology in the game of golf, but every now and then we should take the time to honor where we have come from and who carried us to where we are now.
 
If we listen carefully, we can still hear the faint voices of the past through the strong winds of our industrys progression.
 
Copyright 2007 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
 
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Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a reporter for The Golf Channel, equipment expert, twenty-year veteran of the golf industry and speaker. In addition, he is a New York Times and USAToday bestselling coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and author of Fairways of Life, Wisdom and Inspiration from the Greatest Game. Fairways of Life uses golf as a metaphor for life and features a Foreword by Arnold Palmer. To sign up for Adams Golf Wisdom email quotes or for more information, go to www.FairwaysofLife.com.