Looking for Magic in Orlando

RSS

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
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 2006 PGA Merchandise Show