The Friday of PGA Show week gives the best indication of the state of the industry. On Wednesday, probably only half the people registered for the event will be present and everyone wants to hit the new clubs. Inevitably there’s a sense of anticipation and excitement which continues all the way through Thursday when it feels like anyone and everyone who ever swung a golf club descends on the OCCC.
Jim Frank, former editor of GOLF Magazine who now blogs about the game, said today’s buzz, or rather lack of it, was only to be expected.
Not everyone saw it that way, however.
Ryan Ballengee, who writes for NBC Sports, says the atmosphere was markedly more upbeat than it was twelve months ago. “I think there’s noticeably more media here, both traditional and non-traditional,” he said. “And I think it’s a bit busier down on the floor. There seems to be more vendors, and some of the booths are bigger and more elaborate than ever. I get the impression people think it’s coming back slowly.”
Ryan Moore was at the Show today, promoting the True Linkswear shoe he had a hand in designing, began wearing at the Colonial last May and which features the ultra-thin “Ergo-Traction” sole that provides surprisingly good grip and stability while putting your feet incredibly close to the ground.
Decked out in shirt, tie, vest and Adams Golf hat, Moore had clearly recovered from the flu that forced him out of the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs last week and said he is looking forward to a really great year.
In November, it was announced that TaylorMade Adidas Golf (TMAG) had decided to participate at this year’s show after sporadic appearances this century, and in an effort to make the most of the curiosity and attention the new R11 Driver had created.
The word is the PGA of America made it easy for them to return, if you know what I mean, but of course there was less chance of getting an official line on that than Tiger Woods making an unexpected appearance at the Nike booth to sign autographs and yuk it up with the crowd.
The PGA of America was obviously relieved to confirm TaylorMade’s return…and boy did TaylorMade ever return. The manufacturer’s decision came so late in the day, however, there was no room for it at the end of the convention center usually reserved for the likes of Nike, PING, Callaway, Titleist, Cobra, etc. who exhibit their latest products and conduct meetings with customers in booths that appear to have been designed by some serious architects.
So TaylorMade (along with Adidas and Ashworth, which was acquired in October 2008), got pushed to the other end of the building, as far from the other clubmakers as was possible, and in the part of the building where apparel companies are positioned. The fear was nobody other than TMAG’s existing customers would venture that far west.
One of my favorite booths this week was #2978, where artist David O’Keefe was stationed. Commissioned by Par Aide, the ball-washer company, to create a caricature of the Caddyshack cast, O’Keefe spent eight months creating a quite brilliant work that has been creating significant interest at Florida country clubs. O’Keefe, whose work has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, MAD and on the pages of TIME Magazine, is based in Sarasota, Fla. and spent 26 years at the Tampa Tribune. David was in his booth this morning working on another stunning cartoon, this one of Clint Eastwood character Dirty Harry. As he worked on Harry’s Magnum 44, O’Keefe told me he didn’t go to art school and really had only one major influence – Peter Paul Rubens, a 17th-century Flemish-Baroque painter who, if memory serves, specialized in painting naked women with large behinds.