Roll up, roll up. The greatest golf show on earth is about to burst on to our screens, at least those belonging to the lucky souls who have access to the Golf Channel.
I am currently in Orlando, Florida ? playground of mice and men (well one mouse in particular and, for the purposes of this particular week, a bunch of men who are otherwise known as golf professionals).
The 54th PGA Merchandise Show is about to tee off in the Orange County Convention Center, and yours truly has already taken the prudent (are you reading, Gordon?) step of reinforcing his footwear. The place is more than a mile long and showcases the wares of some 1,200 exhibitors, every single one of whom wants your time and attention.
There isn’t a Softspikes requirement (it’s about the only place in golf not to make this insistence), but from today (Thursday) through Saturday, some 43,000 buyers from 70 countries (most of them club pros who run retail shops) will pound the amply carpeted floors of this massive complex in search of a bargain (for them, that is, not you).
The whole point of being a club pro is to make money, and these guys aren’t here to fritter it away. The exhibitors include industry leaders like Callaway, TaylorMade, Mizuno, Srixon, Nike, Wilson, etc, etc, and they all have new stories to tell about their latest attempts to wow the market.
But if the pros don’t buy it, then we, the consumers, almost certainly won’t either. Before the main course, though, came the hors d’oeuvres ? the prosaically named Demo Day ? which took place yesterday at the grandly named Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge. The idea of this sideshow ? where some 80 manufacturers pitch their tents (think gazebos rather than marquees) on mounds surrounding an amphitheatre-shaped practice ground ? is that everyone gets a chance to try out the new kit they’re going to see at the main show.
It’s a “kiddies and sweet shop” exercise, and the turnout since it began five years ago has rocketed despite the relative obscurity of its location ? nowhere near the Convention Center, nowhere near Disneyland, nowhere near the Magic Kingdom, and certainly nowhere near where at least half a dozen locals told me to go when I asked for directions.
Indeed, it’s a feature of Orlando’s population ? a mix of retirement folk from the northern cities, re-located Hispanics from Cuba via Miami and wealthy second-home owners ? that no one knows how to get anywhere. It doesn’t stop them from thinking they do, and global warming goes up a notch as the beneficiaries of their advice burn off needless gallons of fuel following it.
Still, there was no real need for the presence of an “intrepid reporter” at the Demo Day as manufacturers and retailers danced their product-testing fandango with the latest square-headed drivers and plutonium-coated lob wedges.
MacGregor, fresh from their takeover of/merger with Greg Norman Collection were keen to hit the ground running and bought everyone breakfast. No sign of the Shark, though, amid the muffins and waffles. Instead, the punters had to make do with legendary putter designer Bobby Grace, now plying his trade with MacGregor, and Britain’s very own Luther Blacklock, explaining Explanar.
All told, the Demo Day lacked star quality despite the presence of several multi-tasking media types in search of celebrity interviews to put in the can. The pick of the bunch, just about, turned out to be a comely buxom blonde wench, who goes by the name of Brittany Lincicombe, doing service in the cause of Adams Golf.
Saddoes who are up to speed with the LPGA Tour will know that Brittany had a promising rookie season in 2006, and no doubt be pleased to hear she was dressed in a fetching white mini-skirt ? almost uniform these days for girl golfers seeking fame, fortune and sponsors. Trouble was, the temperatures were more Oslo than Orlando and poor lil’ Brittany had goose bumps on her legs and a detectable sang froid in her demeanour. The rest of the LPGA stars expected to show up this week, including world number one Annika Sorenstam, sensibly kept well away.
Just about the only thing guaranteed to keep people warm at the Demo Day was the Softspikes cleat-changing challenge in which pros went up against a team of NASCAR tyre changers with the fastest winning a luxury holiday ? well, he’d need it after such exertions.
Today sees the start of the main course, and world number two Jim Furyk and the coach of the only player ranked higher than him on the planet, Hank Haney, head an impressive cast of luminaries. Even a rodent named Michael will take a back seat to these guys.