And the Beat Goes on…

And the Beat Goes on…

Our frontline man, Tony Dear, is on the scene at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, the ‘Center of the Golf Universe’ every year in late January. He’ll be sending us updates while he’s there.
Ailing? Yes. Dead? Certainly not.
The golf industry has had a very tough couple of years…who hasn’t? From garage-based crackpot inventors and Mom & Pop nine-hole courses all the way up to Callaway Golf and Pebble Beach Golf Links, everyone’s been hurting to some degree.

But the golf trade refuses to give up. You only need attend “Demo Day,” the day before the official start of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., to see for yourself how, in the midst of it all, golf is still very much open for business.

Though this is my fifth or sixth time at the PGA Show, I’d never arrived early enough to visit the Demo Day when PGA professionals looking for the newest gear to put in their shops are able to test for themselves the clubmakers’ latest offerings.

Knowing how many PGA members, exhibitors, media, and PR/administrative personnel pass through the doors of the Orange County Convention Center during this event every year, I had some idea what to expect at Orange County National GC (where the PGA Tour Q-School was played at the start of December), but I hadn’t quite expected a circular, 42-acre range ringed almost entirely with hundreds of exhibitor stands, and thousands of golfers hitting balls into the circle where motorized ball-collecting carts scurried about doing their best to clear the ground of balls but always facing an uphill struggle.

Always on the Job

After standing in line for half an hour waiting to go through registration, the first person I spoke with was Ed Several, the PGA of America man who runs this whole thing.
Ed Several

I had noticed him as I was lining up, shaking hands and introducing himself to all the staff, from those manning the computers to teenagers on garbage patrol. In between these introductions, he took phone calls, directed people trying to hold the canopy down despite the strong wind, and spoke into his walkie-talkie. As I approached him to get his thoughts on what he had seen so far, he glanced toward me and thrust out his hand. ‘Hi Tony, how’s life in Washington?”


I don’t say this to name-drop – how many readers have heard of Ed Several, after all? It just struck me as remarkable that a man whose job it is to organize and assure the smooth-running of an event as colossal as the PGA Merchandise Show, should remember the name of a writer he met once maybe four years ago. Having a memory like that must make life so easy.

Jake’s Take

One of the more popular points of the circle was the covered hitting area used by students at the Professional Golfers Career College and where former PGA Tour star and Oregon native Peter Jacobson was talking about Cleveland Golf’s new lines of drivers and Srixon balls while performing some of his impressively accurate, not to say amusing, impersonations of fellow pros.
I turned up as the former Ryder Cup player was enacting Tom Kite’s swing – including pre-shot shuffles and post-swing lean – and instantly recognized the stiff-legged address position and the awkward-looking follow-through which always looked a little unbalanced to me.

Jacobson absolutely nailed it. He gave us his typically hilarious rendition of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and, though the younger members of the audience wouldn’t have known it, his Doug Sanders was spot on too, especially the reaction to the missed three-foot putt that would have won Sanders the 1970 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Towards the end, Jake and trick shot artist/fellow impersonator Nico Bollini took suggestions from the crowd and, apparently without much rehearsal, together they rattled off Seve Ballesteros (face and voice too), Greg Norman, Laura Davies and Chi Chi Rodriguez.

Hey, what’s up Little Suzy?

Seven years ago, I traveled to Connecticut to meet and play a few holes with Suzy Whaley, an LPGA teaching pro who had won the Connecticut sectional PGA Championship and therefore qualified to play in the Greate

Suzy Whaley

r Hartford Open (now the Travelers Championship) at TPC River Highlands.

On being introduced to her, I was struck by how petite she was and wondered how on Earth she had beaten the male pros in Connecticut and how she wasn’t going to embarrass herself against the world’s best players.
Then she hit the most beautiful 270-yard draw off the 1st tee and all became clear. To say she absolutely destroyed me over those nine holes doesn’t nearly do her justice, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she broke 80 in the opening rounds of the main event (she shot 75-78, beating three guys, including former PGA Tour winner Gabriel Hjertstedt).
Suzy told me she is here not only to search for better tools with which to communicate with her students (she teaches at River Highlands where her husband Bill is the Director of Golf), but also in her capacity as a PGA of America Board Member. “I’m here to do all the merchandising and ordering for the golf shop, and looking for training aids that will facilitate teaching,” she said. “And the PGA is working on several initiatives to help grow the game, and I’m involved with that.” Busy lady.
She remembered me too. And while that is a little bit of a name-drop, I really just point it out to emphasize her courtesy and professionalism. She and Ed Several must have trained together.