The Orange County Convention Center turned into a graveyard and the only people on the floors of the halls seemed to be removal men. Certainly no one ever hung around to do any last-minute business.
It has to be said, though, that yesterday (Saturday) tailed off as well. The attendance was less than a third of the first day (which, admittedly, broke all sorts of records), but it still didn’t stop the car park attendants from running a well-known scam ? telling arrivals the car parks were full (normal charge $10) and the only place they could park was in the valet car park (normal charge $20). Of course, those who called their bluff and drove on found plenty of spaces, and saved themselves 10 bucks.
Still, at least the anticlimax didn’t kick in until around 3pm which made for an overall improvement. And at this point I should confess an inexplicable fascination for watching stands being dismantled and product either being packed away for shipping home or, in the case of a lot of club manufacturers, being flogged off on the cheap to representatives of Edwin Watts and the other local golf retailers. Even the sofas on the larger stands appeared to be up for sale at ridiculous, knock-down prices. Problem, though, was how do you get a sofa from Orlando to Finchley?
However, as befits Day Three of a three-day show (a quart squeezed into a pint pot if ever there was one), there was still plenty of business to be attended to.
Your correspondent, surprised by the paucity of the British representation at a time when travelling to the United States has never yielded better value, decided to make a concerted effort to hook up with the purely British and European exhibitors (those who had paid their passage and had strictly no US affiliation).
Without question the two stars in this respect were the shoe manufacturers Stuburt, exhibiting at the Show for the first time, and the innovative golf bag-trolley firm Tri-Bag.
Stuburt, showcasing a superb line of six new shoes from the top-of-the-range Helium Pro (RRP: £79.99) down to the value Pro-Am II model (RRP: £29.99), even attracted the attention of the roving Golf Channel film crew who quickly put together a 10-minute news slot including an interview with managing director, and part-time matinee idol, Graeme Stevens.
A whole raft of orders Stateside duly followed, influenced possibly by the company’s recently-cemented association with Darren Clarke. ?We hadn’t realised until the Show that Darren was possibly the second most popular golfer over here after Tiger,? said Graeme, whose other high-profile ‘staff’ player is David Howell.
That said, today there was certainly no love lost between Graeme, a dyed-in-the-wool Arsenal fan, and Clarke and Howell’s manager Chubby Chandler, a Bolton diehard, as their respective teams slugged out a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium. ?I texted him afterwards,? said Graeme. ?What reply did you get?? I asked. ?Unprintable!?
Tri-Bag, who also have aspirations towards the American market, have appointed US sales veteran Dave Burningham to oversee that side of their business. And managing director Michelle Bray is convinced that success and recognition lie just round the corner for Tri-Bag.
?This is our second year at Orlando, and we are really beginning to make inroads,? she said. ?People remember Tri-Bag from last year, and its all-in-one triumvirate of features ? a bag you can carry, stand and pull ? and now realise we weren’t a flash in the pan.?
A handful of smaller British companies came out under the UK pavilion banner, but apart from Wales the representation from Ireland and Scotland was a disappointment.
In theory, the Irish are now raking it in as a result of hosting last year’s Ryder Cup and don’t need a presence at Orlando, but you’ve got to wonder what the Scottish tourism bodies are playing at. St Andrews, the only Scottish exhibitor, is not the only place in Scotland, even for visiting golfers.
VisitScotland’s absence was lamentable, not least because they used to host a superb haggis and whisky dinner on Show-time Saturday. Will ye nae return?
On the celebrity front, Day Three was C if not D list, with one glowing exception ? the wonderful Alison Nicholas, Yorkshire born and bred, former US Women’s Open champion, and now an apostle for inner-city golf in Birmingham.
The final throw of the dice for me was a most agreeable media dinner hosted by TaylorMade, ostensibly to bid farewell to their retiring communications director John Steinbark. John’s name won’t mean anything to you, dear reader, but he was there on the ground floor, on day one, when the late, great clubmaker Gary Adams founded TaylorMade back in the early 1970s. John and Gary grew up together and they built the company together.
Fitting therefore that TaylorMade chose unquestionably the outstanding restaurant in the whole of Mickey Mouse city ? Chatham’s on the corner of Sand Lake Drive and Dr Phillips Boulevard. Reader, next time you come to Orlando book a table, you will certainly not regret it.
And despite all my whingeing and moaning, I haven’t regretted for one second my latest visit to Orlando either. It’s wacky, and it’s tacky, but the Show will go on… and on… and on. It deserves to, and it will.