Good PGA Show during tough times

By Casey BiererFebruary 1, 2009, 5:00 pm
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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    Club apologizes for calling cops on black women members

    By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 11:07 pm

    YORK, Pa. - A golf club in Pennsylvania has apologized for calling police on a group of black women after the co-owner and his father said they were playing too slowly and refused requests to leave the course.

    “I felt we were discriminated against,” one of the women, Myneca Ojo, told the York Daily Record. “It was a horrific experience.”

    Sandra Thompson and four friends met up Saturday to play a round of golf at the Grandview Golf Club, where they are all members, she told the newspaper.

    At the second hole, a white man whose son co-owns the club came up to them twice to complain that they weren’t keeping up with the pace of play. Thompson, an attorney and the head of the York chapter of the NAACP, told the newspaper it was untrue.

    On the same hole, another member of the group, Sandra Harrison, said she spoke with a Grandview golf pro, who said they were fine since they were keeping pace with the group ahead of them.

    Despite that, the women skipped the third hole to avoid any other issues, she said.

    It’s part of golf etiquette that slow-moving players let groups behind them play through if they are holding things up, and often golf courses have personnel who monitor the pace of play, letting golfers know when they are taking too long.

    The five are part of a larger group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway. The group has been around for at least a decade, and all of its members are experienced players who have golfed all over the county and world, Thompson said. They’re very familiar with golf etiquette, she said.

    After the ninth hole, where it is customary to take a break before continuing on the next nine holes, three of the group decided to leave because they were so shaken up by the earlier treatment, the women told the paper.

    Thompson said the man from the second hole, identified as former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, his son, club co-owner Jordan Chronister and several other white, male employees approached the remaining two women and said they took too long of a break and they needed to leave the course.

    The women argued they took an appropriate break, and that the men behind them were still on their beer break and not ready to tee off, as seen in a video Thompson gave the newspaper. The women were told that the police had been called, and so they waited.

    Northern York County Regional Police arrived, conducted interviews and left without charging anyone.

    “We were called there for an issue, the issue did not warrant any charges,” Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said. “All parties left and we left as well.”

    A phone listing for Steve Chronister rang busy on Monday. He told the York Daily Record he didn’t have time to comment on Sunday.

    Jordan Chronister’s wife and co-owner of the club, JJ Chronister, said Sunday she called the women personally to apologize.

    “We sincerely apologize to the women for making them feel uncomfortable here at Grandview, that is not our intention in any way,” she told the newspaper. “We want all of our members to feel valued and that they can come out here and have a great time, play golf and enjoy the experience.”

    She said she hopes to meet with them to discuss how the club can use what happened as a learning experience and do better in the future.

    Thompson said she’s not sure a meeting is what needs to happen.

    “There needs to be something more substantial to understand they don’t treat people in this manner,” she said.

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    Randall's Rant: Augusta has the power to strengthen LPGA

    By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 9:57 pm

    Augusta National Golf Club is turning women’s golf upside down.

    If you care about the LPGA, that should be your hope, anyway.

    Your hope should be that the investment made in the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship announced at the Masters three weeks ago will eventually filter up the women’s ranks.

    While the new amateur event comes with significant challenges for the women’s tour - with its first major (the ANA Inspiration) in a tough spot the same week as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur - there is LPGA seed money being planted in Georgia

    There’s an investment that may grow the women’s game beyond fueling new interest among girls.

    “I just hope corporations start recognizing the value of investing in the women’s game, the way Augusta National does,” two-time major champion Cristie Kerr said. “There are so many corporate sponsors in the men’s game who don’t invest a single dollar in the women’s game. Obviously, that’s their prerogative, but we have a lot of value as a tour.”

    And there’s your hope.

    Augusta National is a collection of power brokers, CEOs and leaders now invested in growing the women’s game.

    They’re taking a special interest in watching these young female amateurs emerge, and it’s only natural to expect they’ll become emotionally invested in where these young players go.

    And a lot of these young players will go on to the LPGA.

    The LPGA is thriving under commissioner Mike Whan’s leadership, with Whan seeing opportunities where others didn’t. He saw Asian interest in the tour as an asset, not the liability so many thought a decade ago.

    The LPGA had withered to 23 events in 2011 with $40 million in total prize money. This year, it's up to 34 events with a tour-record $68 million in prize money. Whan did that with a lot of Asian backing.

    Of the 10 tour events the LPGA has staged so far this year, including this week’s tournament in San Francisco, nine have Asian-based title sponsors. Even the LPGA’s domestic events are thriving on Asian money. 

    All six of the U.S. events staged so far this year have Asian-based title sponsors. You have to move into May and next week’s Volunteers of America Texas Classic before finding an American corporate title sponsor of an American LPGA event.

    That starts changing with summer approaching, but overall there will be 17 Asian-based companies or organizations as title sponsors of LPGA events this year, with 14 American-based entities sponsoring or owning events.

    Whan says that’s a good thing.

    “The diversity of sponsorship on the LPGA makes us a stronger business,” Whan said. “Since I’ve been in office, we’ve worked through recessions in different parts of the world. None of those recessions were crippling to our overall schedule, because we have so many sponsors on board, from so many different places.”

    Whan says American corporate interest is growing considerably, with more American marketing partners joining the LPGA this year. The next steps players would like to see are increased purses and endorsement opportunities for women.

    The winning two-man team at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic this week will take home a combined $2,073,000. This week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship features a $1.5 million purse for the entire field.

    “The income gap in golf is as much a concern to me as the corporate income gap is to working women,” 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis wrote in an essay earlier this year for the World Economic Forum.

    U.S. Solheim Cup captain and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster started wearing a San Francisco Giants cap this year with no endorsement deals on her bag or shirt. She has become more outspoken about the lack of corporate support for all female golf pros.

    “I'm going to say it right now, and I probably shouldn't say it, but I just don't understand how all these companies get away with supporting PGA Tour events and not supporting the LPGA,” Inkster said at the last Solheim Cup. “It makes me a little upset, because I think we've got a great product. We deserve our due.”

    With Augusta National investing in young amateur women, it may only be a matter of time until corporate America significantly steps up support. The game’s greatest power brokers appear ready to grow with the young women they will begin investing in next year. That should be the hope for anyone who cares about the LPGA.

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    Report: Tour close to finalizing Detroit tournament

    By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 7:07 pm

    With the final pieces of the 2019 schedule falling into place, the PGA Tour appears on the verge of returning to Michigan for the first time in nearly a decade.

    According to a Detroit News report, the Tour is "believed to be close" to an agreement to bring a tournament to the Motor City beginning in 2019, reportedly likely to take place at Detroit Golf Club near downtown.

    While the specifics remain undisclosed, the prime candidate for such a move appears to be The National. The Washington, D.C.-area event, which benefits Tiger Woods' TGR Foundation, was sponsored by Detroit-based Quicken Loans from 2014-2017. This year the tournament will be conducted at TPC Potomac without a title sponsor.

    According to a Detroit News report in September, Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert was open to continuing his company's sponsorship of the event if it shifted to Detroit.

    In addition to The National, the only other current PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is the Houston Open. On Monday Charles Schwab was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019.

    The PGA Tour has not held an event in the state of Michigan since 2009, the final year of the now-defunct Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. While the final details of a revamped schedule have yet to be announced, the Tour is expected to unveil its itinerary for the 2018-19 season at The Players next month.

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    Inbee Park quietly reclaims world No. 1

    By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 6:44 pm

    Inbee Park moved back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in about as ho-hum fashion as you’ll ever see a player take the top spot.

    It isn’t that she doesn’t care about the top ranking. It just wasn’t a priority in her return to golf this year, after missing big portions of the last two years with injuries.

    With an Olympic gold medal and seven major championship titles, the LPGA Hall of Famer isn’t done trying to top the scoreboards that matter most to her.

    “To be honest, I never really think about being No. 1 again,” Park said early last week, before tying for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open. “If it comes to me, great. If not, it doesn't matter.”

    It came to her for the fourth time in her career.

    Park, 29, reigned at No. 1 for 59 weeks in her longest run on top, back in the 2013 and ’14 seasons.

    Oddly, this run to No. 1 almost comes as a surprise to Park, who didn’t need long to get back to the top spot after returning to the tour. She won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last month in her second after missing seven months with a back injury.

    Park last lost the No. 1 ranking in October of 2015, doing so to Lydia Ko.

    In six starts this year, Park has finished T-3 or better four times. She leads the tour in scoring average (69.13) and is second in greens in regulation (77.5 percent).

    Just wait until her putter heats up.

    Yeah, Park’s not very satisfied with her putting. She’s one of the greatest putters who ever played the women’s game, but she has been frustrated with the inconsistency of her stroke much of this season. Of course, her standards are high. She ranks second in putts per greens in regulation so far this year.

    On Sunday, this is how Park summed up her putting in 2018: “Some days, I’ve been really good. Some days, I’ve been really bad.”

    Park has led the LPGA in putts per GIR in five of the last 10 years. She switched from her preferred mallet-style putter to a blade earlier this season and won with a Toulon Madison blade at the Founders Cup last month. She was back with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet this past week. That’s the putter she used to win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She used an Odyssey Sabertooth winged mallet in her 2013 run of three consecutive major championship victories.