The man who not only pushes the envelope, but seals it, licks the stamp and posts it off
to every corner of the golf industry is Ed Several, PGA Golf Exhibitions vice-president and Show manager.?All indicators point to a highly successful 2007 Show which sets a positive tone for the rest of the year in the golf industry,? was Ed’s initial, optimistic verdict when I spoke to him yesterday. ?We’re extremely pleased with the quality and number of PGA professionals and key buyers on the floor this week, and the exhibitors are having productive meetings with them. That’s what the show is all about.?
As I wrote yesterday, Day One at the Orange County Convention Center (Thursday) was one of the busiest and best attended in the 54-year history of the Show. Indeed it could be said there were Several people here ? lots and lots of them, all with Ed’s seal of approval.
No doubt the return of TaylorMade to the fold has boosted interest in the hardware section ? and orders for the company’s new SuperQuad and Burner drivers has left their executives purring with something akin to satisfaction.
Callaway, who often threaten to pull out of the Show but are always persuaded to stay in, have been showcasing their innovative square-headed FT-i driver, but Nike, perplexingly, have eschewed the opportunity to make a similar song and dance about their SasQuatch Sumo2 driver. They were there at the pre-Show Demo Day and their apparel range is on display, but the Sumo has remained in mothballs.
Now I may be old-fashioned about these things, or appallingly misinformed, but I always thought the whole point of any trade show was to introduce retailers to innovative new products. One PGA pro, Greg Fish of Toledo,Ohio, summed it up in language I definitely understood. ?I come to the Show each year with one simple question: what’s new? I’m always looking for new products and new opportunities, and I always find them here.? With that he set off on yet another Fish-ing expedition.
On his travels he would have run into an interesting cast of visitors. Annika Sorenstam, the women’s world No 1, led the way with an hour-long public appearance. Once again those veteran troopers David Leadbetter, Jim Mclean, Butch Harmon and Hank Haney worked their socks off spreading the best-practice teaching gospel to anyone prepared to listen and learn.
Christina Kim, who stepped into the shoes vacated by Dottie Pepper as the American opponent we love to loathe during the 2005 Solheim Cup, slipped quietly in and out without so much as a hiss or a boo from her audience. Juliet Granada was still milking the applause for Paraguay’s women’s World Cup triumph and Nancy Lopez continued to put ladies half her age to shame with another whistle-stop tour of the halls.
For me, though, three events stood out from Day Two. First was a chance encounter at the 19th Hole ? yes, yes, I know, but it was lunchtime and floor-walking here is thirsty work ? with Anthony Netto, a South African pro who has been wheelchair-bound since being seriously injured in a motor accident over 12 years ago. Most of us would be consumed with self-pity, but not Anthony who travels the world giving exhibitions, making motivational speeches and raising funds for disabled golfers’ charities.
His party piece is long-driving – believe it or not he gets the ball out there well over 300 yards. He achieves this by tilting his wheelchair forward to create a near upright stance, and then taking advantage of being securely strapped in, good technique and arms like a blacksmith’s.
Later on, I met an equally remarkable man called Kevin Dawson, from Atlanta, Georgia. Not only is Kevin a scratch golfer and an agent for Nicklaus Golf, he also happens to be a professional magician. Nicklaus Golf had a close-of-play party on their stand and Kevin was the cabaret ? a kind of Tommy Cooper of the Deep South, complete with a constant stream of witty patter, logic-defying optical illusions and card tricks that had to be impossible, except I saw him do them. Effortlessly – which, I suppose, is the biggest trick of all because the planning that went in to everything he did would re-define the word ‘meticulous’. Oh, and he stubbed out a cigarette on my jacket and managed to restore it to pristine condition with a flick of the wrist.
And so, scratching my head in bewilderment and wondering why such people don’t just rob banks for a living because they’d never be caught, I set off for the final act of a long day ? the concert by Huey Lewis and the News in the Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Orlando, courtesy of apparel company Izod G. Huey’s 90-minute gig, which compared favourably with the paltry efforts last year of the Black Crows which barely went through the half-hour barrier, was loud, lively and well received by the 3,000 spectators who made their way over from the Show. Huey, a pro-am regular, loves his golf, and golf loves Huey.
But even Huey could not have known when he released ‘Hip to be Square’ in 1986 that 21 years later that iconic hit would sum up the 54th PGA Merchandise Show. Ed Several, you’ve got a new theme tune!