by Tony Dear
(A former British PGA apprentice professional and member of the University of Liverpool golf team, Tony Dear is an award-winning freelance golf travel writer now living in Bellingham, Wash. He contributes to numerous golf publications on both sides of the Atlantic, and is the editorial director for Golfwashington.com. He has authored several books on golf, most recently The Golfer’s Handbook.)
It’s Thursday at the PGA Merchandise Show and the fun of Demo Day with its Peter Jacobsen-based entertainment is but a happy memory.
Rather than a vast and sun-drenched open space out somewhere towards the Magic Kingdom, today’s activities take place on the exhibition floor at the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive – all 1.2 million square feet of it.
Tens of thousands of industry personnel pass through the doors, and millions of purchasing dollars are committed. To the untrained eye belonging to the show newcomer, everything looks totally overwhelming. To the old hand, the show regular, 99 percent of it is still totally overwhelming – the remaining one percent are those who feel comfortable about the locations of the food court, massage area and restrooms, all of which will no doubt be visited multiple times during this crazy, three-day gearfest.
Today is a day (for the media guy anyway) not only for getting a sense of the level of excitement among exhibitors and vendors but also going in search of interesting new equipment stories. What will spike consumers’ interest this year? What will they spend their golf budget on? What will make them a better golfer?
But of course, innovative, forward-thinking companies are making the most of a difficult situation. TaylorMade, whose appearances at the Show since the turn of the century have been few, is back to amplify the noise being created by its new R11 driver with the white head which actually looks a whole lot better up close than it does on television or in a magazine.
As for the level of buzz, and how it compares with recent years, it depends who you ask. Sports Illustrated’s Gary Van Sickle, who has been coming to this thing since the mid-1990s, told me it is noticeably greater than it was last year, while others point to the large PGA Golf Exhibition booth which no one can remember being here before (and which was pretty empty all day) being an indication that the PGA is trying to make it appear that all available space has been snapped up when really it hasn’t.
Whilst Out Walking…
This morning, while out walking the floor with no express purpose, I spotted Nico Bollini, the other half of yesterday’s Peter Jacobsen show. The 27-year-old former USC standout tells me he turned professional shortly after graduating and now has conditional status on the European Tour (he’ll be playing a few European Challenge Tour events). He became Jacobsen’s show partner through Cleveland Golf and says he hardly ever practices his impersonations.
Five years ago, Steve Boccieri launched the Heavy Putter which featured a 75g weight in the butt-end of the shaft. The extra weight was there to promote better tempo and the theory caught on almost immediately, the putter gaining a small but significant following in its first year. The Mid-Weight Series followed in 2009, then the Lite-Weight Series (yes, the concept of a Lite-Weight Heavy Putter had a few people scratching their heads), then the Heavy Wedge last year.
This year, Boccieri is launching his Control Series of irons, woods and drivers. And just as the short-game clubs attracted their share of attention, so their long-game counterparts, the driver especially, are causing quite a stir. Yesterday during the Demo Day, a Krank Golf team member who competes at the Long Drivers of America competitions hit the driver and was surprised to find he couldn’t smash the face. Apparently Kellet had spent most of the afternoon breaking the face of Cleveland, TaylorMade, PING and Callaway drivers, but had a hard time making much of a dent in the Heavy Driver.