Sunday, February 18, 2018

2018 PGA Merchandise Show

January 24-26, 2018
Orlando, Florida

       With over one million square feet of interactive exhibits and 10 miles of showcase aisles at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, the 65th PGA Merchandise Show brought together golf businesses, professionals, associations and products as it does each January in an industry-only event that celebrates and elevates the business of golf.
     There is a generosity of spirit in golf that is especially apparent here where legends of the sport merge with retailers and manufacturers, innovators and new generations to move us forward.  And some of the most satisfying reflections we have of the show are from following the threads where golf leads.
     With its huge stretch of hitting bays, putting greens and short game challenge, the Indoor Equipment Test Center presented great opportunities to continue our tour of wedges that started at Demo Day and to talk over the new technology with club manufacturing representatives.

 For over 50 years, Honma has been crafting quality.  Precision and detail are their cornerstones.

     Yonex is a company driven by technology.  Advancements in materials, shaping and design are always on the forefront of their new releases.

Studying the Slanted Grooves of the Yonex Ezone GT Hybrid

     We had tried several Epon wedges at Demo Day and enjoyed having the chance to find out more about the forging process that elevates this company to the realm of world class clubmakers.

An enjoyable and instructive visit with Epon

There's a long list of winners at Titleist
Bob Vokey talking shop

     A tribute to the masterful wedge work of Bob Vokey and the process of creating his new Vokey SM7 Wedge was on display at Titleist and the opportunity to see him in person was a great surprise.

     The forgiveness of the Twist Face on TaylorMade's M3 and M4 Driver is true - straight distance with each hit.  And watch for the TaylorMade Spider Interactive Putter with real-time stroke analytics powered by a BLAST Motion Sensor housed in the grip.

Piretti Putters - Works of Art

     Simply put, Piretti Putters are works of art.  Focused on delivering a personalized fit, their catalogue includes special editions, custom paint-fills and even a virtual putter fitting via their website.

     Recently retired with a new workshop to fill, we were drawn to the fine bending and lie/loft instruments at Golf Mechanix.  Feels like a new hobby, maybe career, might be in our future!

     Hank Haney, who alongside Suzie Whaley, Debbie Donniger, Larry Rinker, Michael Breed, David Leadbetter and Jim McLean participated in the Teacher Town Hall presented by Sirius XM, is often heard encouraging a student to play a ball that feels good around the green.
     We like the feel of the OnCore Elixer golf ball with its high density polymer mantel and the idea of their risk-free E-Consign program for retailers and clubs.  Keep your "i" out for their GENiUS golf ball, the next gen in putting analytics, due out in time for Father's Day!


     Volvik,  the official golf ball of the World Long Drive Championship, was bringing out the smiles with their bright colors and "Marvel Matte" finishes, especially with the new cartoon and super hero logos. 


     We met their embassador, Tim Burke, 2017 Long Drive Champion and a Super Hero himself, whose longest drive in competition is 469 yards!

     Looking for healthy options to carry for your players?

     Physician Endorsed Hats are guaranteed chemical-free sun protection of up to UPF 50 and are crushable, lightweight and adjustable to create a custom fit.

     It was nice to see Jill Strite again, LPGA Member and President of CaddySnax,  Their brandable boxes of healthy snacks conveniently fit in a golf cart glove box and are deliverable to your next event.


     We also met the inventors of the Martini Golf Tee which we already happen to carry in our bag.  We can attest to their quality and yardage improvement.  Beware cheap imitations that flex and wobble.  Invest in Martini Tees and you'll be supporting a family business with a great idea and amusing sense of humor!

Here are several designers that are bringing unique and stylish touches to apparel, bags and accessories:

Kaeli Smith - Chic women's styles in performance fabrics cut from vivid, original prints by the artist, customable for your club or resort.

Arnold Palmer Apparel - Hardly a new name but a new menswear company begun in 2017 with timelessly traditional style and all profits to benefit Arnie's Army Charitable Foundation.  "Look Great.  Do Good."

Movetes - Stylish, graceful women's active and daily wear in luxurious fabrics and classic themes. Maureen Caruthers' designs are ahead of the trends.

Greyson Clothiers - Fashion-forward, functional menswear with attention to detail and an attitude that is right in step with their iconic Wolf logo.

Jones Golf Bags - Northwest Coast creators of nostalgic and vintage single strap carry bags and leather goods that work well and look great.

Sassy Caddy - Former Golf Pro Emily Haythorn has put delight into every one of her women's bag sets for golf, racquet and club sports.  Her, and our, favorite signature piece - The Hat Box!

Club Glove USA - The #1 luggage on Tour and American made with a "Train Reaction" integrated luggage connecting system that lets you "Roll like a Pro!"

     Amazing interview opportunities occur at the PGA Merchandise Show and the stories of Gianna Rojas and Wesley Hobbs Bauguess will inspire you.
     Gianna Rojas, Founder of Adaptive Golfers, told us that she only had to ask and the PGA Merchandise Show organized a new Adaptive Golf Center within the Golf Fitness, Wellness and Instruction Area of the Show floor.  Featured products included adaptive clubs, accessories, programs, grip devices and single rider golf carts specifically with this rising segment of golfers in mind.

     Gianna, a March of Dimes "spokeskid" in the 1960's, who was born with an under-developed left hand, is a woman today with an infectious spirit who has never let her physical differences be a barrier.  Golf was a sport she wanted to learn to be able to play with her husband and so she developed a way to play.  More than that, she saw that golf could help her realize her vision of building a resource coalition for adaptive golfers.  And so she has.

Gianna Rojas, Founder of Adaptive Golfers, sporting a skort by
B Skinz, perfectly designed for ease of wear and comfortable play

     Meeting Wesley Hobbs Bauguess, author of God, Country, Golf - Reflections of an Army Widow, was an interview that we could never have prepared for.  Wesley, a mother, golfer and Army veteran, is also a spokesperson for Folds of Honor, a charitable foundation with 10 years of service to families of fallen or disabled US Service Members by providing scholarships to their children and spouses.
     Folds of Honor was begun by Maj. Dan Rooney, an F16 fighter pilot and PGA golfer who started with the first Patriot Day Golf fundraiser on Labor Day Weekend, 2007.  By asking golfers across the country to add an extra dollar to their greens fees, they raised $1.1 million that weekend.  They are honored by the generosity of their donors who have since made Patriot Day Golf the largest grass-roots golf fundraiser with those dollars totaling over $14 million in 2017.
     We had heard Wesley speak 2 years ago.  After losing her husband, Maj. Larry Bauguess, US Army, in 2007, Folds of Honor changed their lives by partnering in her children's future.  It had lifted a huge burden from her shoulders.  Speaking to her in person this year, it was also evident that the ability to participate in other families' recoveries had returned her to a place of service that she had missed so dearly since serving with the Army.  Lives changed because of golf.

     We were also inspired by two gentlemen who came to appreciate how, after pinnacle careers in football, the world of golf could help them achieve even higher goals.  Ron "Jaws" Jaworsky, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and ESPN analyst, motivational speaker and owner of 7 golf courses, has played golf since the age of 9 and understands how the intersection of sports and business can deliver great benefit to communities in need.  His Jaws Youth Playbook Foundation with strong funding from annual golf outings supports health and wellness programs for children in the Greater Philadelphia area.

     Hall of Fame College Football Coach Lou Holtz surely needs no further introduction to most sports fans.  In a heart-warming conversation during the Sirius XM "State of the Game" discussion,  Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America, asked him what his mantra was, in a nutshell.
     "Be successful," said Coach Holtz.  "Then be significant."
     His football success has opened many doors, including the door to Augusta National where at age 81 he is an ambassador for Drive, Chip and Putt.  Each spring he puts on his green jacket to welcome and encourage a new generation of athletes at Augusta - girls and boys stepping up to the tee and getting a good grip on golf and life.
     That's what we enjoy so much about covering the PGA Merchandise Show.  It never fails to remind us how richly textured the fabric of golf is.

Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalist Zach Huang will be
seeing Coach Holtz again when he arrives at Augusta this April