Then, with 43,000 industry professionals gathered, not to mention a liberal sprinkling of the game’s celebrities, the heavens open. Everyone gets drenched, they shiver, and they ask themselves ‘why didn’t I stay at home in Manchester/Pittsburgh/Outer Mongolia?’.
At least the downfall ensured a full house at the Orange County Convention Center as golf games were cancelled and visitors headed for a day of serious product sampling.
Show veterans compared it to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Me? I’d seen worse at Tottenham Court Road in the rush hour. But what I can’t bear ? and it’s no worse this time than in previous years ? is the proliferation of 18-stone behemoths who grind to a sudden halt and start lurching sideways right into your path with their eyes craning at some bizarre new gadget in the opposite direction.
Marry that constant danger to life and limb with the noxious smell of industrial carpet that pervades the atmosphere inside the show halls, and you will understand that your correspondent isn’t here for a joy ride on Space Mountain.
The mission statement of the 54th PGA Merchandise Show is ‘Earn, Learn and Grow the Game’ and the theme for Day One was ‘Emerging Global Trends & New Product Introductions’ Today (Day Two) it’s ‘Retail Sell-Through Merchandising & Career Enhancement’. I can’t wait to discover which nouns they decide to cap up, apostrophise and ampersand on the third and final day tomorrow.
Still, the emphasis does seem to be on education, education, education ? from the new PGA Equipment Forum, the even newer PGA Global Economic Summit and the nearly-new Titleist Performance Institute. Any PGA pro who buys into the small print of that little lot will qualify either for an advanced degree in astro-physics or a dotage spent in a strait-jacket.
There were a few real stories of interest. In fact, they were comeback stories. Comebacks are always good for a story. Like TaylorMade returning to the Show, like the prodigal son, after a somewhat petulant three-year absence. Like Jesse Ortiz, the design genius behind the Orlimar fairway woods that were definitely ahead of their time, resurfacing with a new range of hybrids with Bobby Jones Golf Company. And like John Ashworth, eponymous founder of the Ashworth apparel brand, making a guest appearance at his old company’s 20th anniversary celebrations and announcing that he was shortly coming back on board as a humble design employee.
Mind you, next door neighbours Cutter & Buck did their best to upstage their rivals’ bash by staging a cocktails & canapes party of their own, cashing in on the fact that many of their guests mistakenly thought they were on the Ashworth stand.
Celebrities returning to the Show included world No 2 Jim Furyk, who was hardly convincing in his attempts to look anything other riggedly bored while visiting the stand of sponsors Srixon, LPGA starlet Julieta Granada, fresh from spearheading Paraguay to a most unexpected victory in the recent women’s World Cup, old faithfuls David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon, and their fellow coach Jim Mclean.
Nancy Lopez, whose company was taken over by the ominously titled Tournament Sports Marketing towards the end of 2006, seemed to be everywhere as she dashed from press conference to product launch to celebrity appearance. Her current successor as world No 1, Annika Sorenstam, by contrast, slipped in through the back door with a guest appearance at the USGA tasteful champagne reception over the road at the five-star Peabody Hotel.
The British presence, more muted this year for some reason, was bolstered by an excellent though somewhat reception hosted by Ryder Cup Wales 2010. Chairman John Jermine gave a rousing speech about the joys of Welsh golf, but neglected to mention all those sheep on Southerndown that overlooks Bridgend. Wonder why? The wine, incongruously, came from South Africa and was served up by genial former PGA Tour pro David Frost whose career prize money has enabled him to invest in a few square miles’ worth of vineyards down in Stellenbosch.
Along with this most agreeable of nectars there was a taste of Honey ? Ross Honey, actually. The boss of the burgeoning International Pairs tournament hosted his own press conference to announce that he has just signed up his first US licensee for the annual event – one Tim Lemp, the man who recently built the clubhouse extension at nearby Bay Hill.
After all that excitement, it was time for a spot of R&R over at the Cricketers, an English-style pub just off International Drive that stocks London Pride beer and has a Sky Sports feed straight from Andy Gray’s living room. The usual reprobates were in evidence, but a lack of space, alas, prevents me from revealing their identities. Still, there’s always tomorrow’s blog.