I’m not sure how many years of experience are required before one officially enters the “veteran” stage of covering the annual PGA Merchandise Show, but after attending the wonderful January tradition for the past 15 years, I’ll gingerly put forth the notion that I know my way around the very special week in Orlando.
In the frozen region of the world where I live, the Show ( I refuse to suggest the acronym PMS, for obvious reasons) not only provides an exciting glimpse at the latest, greatest innovations and ideas the industry can produce, but it also kicks in a little sunshine and warmth at no added charge.
The 2015 edition, however, brought with it an entirely new thrill for this grizzled veteran – my son came down from Michigan to spend a few days working with me to cover the Show, and it blew him away.
In addition to being my favorite 16-year old on the planet, Bo (I’m a Michigan man) is intelligent, respectful, talented, helpful, and a huge golf nut. Combine all of those traits with a dash of technical expertise, strong writing style and steady camera hand, and we enjoyed a special father/son getaway that will long be remembered.
Now that we’re back home and have had a few days to reflect on the week, I asked Bo to share his impressions of the Show.
Do you remember the first time you enjoyed a jaw-dropping moment? Bo does. Come along for a few minutes and walk in to the Orange County Convention Center with a seasoned veteran and his wide-eyed rookie son…
MY FIRST TIME AT THE SHOW
“Where are you going?” My highschool teacher asked as I handed her a probable absence form which she was to sign.
“Florida,” I said. “Finally get out of the cold.”
“Where in Florida?” she continued.
“We’re going to the PGA Merchandise Show,” I said. “It’s my first time.”
“What is it, even?”
“New products, clubs, equipment, and anything golf related that you can think about is displayed there. I don’t know what to expect exactly, but it’s essentially Disney World for golfers.”
This was the conversation I shared with my English teacher the day before leaving for Orlando, Florida. I was right about the content of the PGA Merchandise Show, but I was wrong about one thing in speaking with my teacher. Unlike Disney World, the PGA Merchandise Show held my attention the entire time, I never got bored, my eyes never stopped popping out of my head, and the thought of taking a rest from walking never crossed my mind.
I arrived in Tampa, Florida at approximately 9:15 A.M., after a 4 A.M. wake up call and 6:45 A.M. flight. Needless to say, going to a massive complex and walking around for the entire day wasn’t exactly at the top of my wish-list. Sleeping in the car ride on the way to the Show, I awoke groggy and, again, not hugely looking forward to the activity of not being asleep in a bed. A tram ride and a bit of a walk later, my dad and I were at the front door of the West Campus of the Orange County Convention Center. We entered, and at first there was little to be overwhelmed by. A big entrance hall, to be sure, but not much else. A couple flights of stairs, an escalator, a few doors, and then we arrived.
The final door opened onto a walkway encased in windows that overlooked the entire show floor. To say my jaw dropped, my fatigue left, and my mind was blown, would be an understatement. As far as the eye could see (not an exaggeration) there were bright, colorful signs, huge, towering displays, big names, unheard-of names, club makers, ball makers, apparel makers, and everything in between. Never before had I seen something so purely golf. And we weren’t even on the floor yet. I took a couple pictures and then we traveled down to the floor.
I could hardly blink once there. Everything was vying for my attention, and I tried to give everything its equal share, but it was impossible. My eyes flicked back and forth from one vendor to the next, and I pretty much wanted everything. It’s hard to describe the feeling once you’re there, and I truly say the only sure way to get a grasp upon the feeling is to go. I had been told about the show before, but no words could come close to the frantic feeling that comes once actually there.
That first day was spent doing interviews with various companies, exploring, and getting a feel for what the show was all about. After roughly 7 hours, I still felt as though I had barely scratched the surface of everything to see and do, and I was right. The second and final day at the show was easier to navigate, because I knew going in what I needed to do, and had a better feel for the layout. The second day was the most enjoyable, and was the most fun I’ve had in quite a long time.
Those two days are two days I will never forget.
The amount of hands-on activities and products is astronomical. Swing simulators, demo versions of products, indoor driving ranges for every club producer imaginable (Taylormade even had an entire wall all to itself for trying out every club they have on the market) indoor short game areas, indoor putting greens, and every other “try our product” system that you can imagine. It is a complete golfer’s paradise and it is impossible to be bored. In addition to all of this, many big names were there, which certainly doesn’t make the experience, but it didn’t hurt it. Graeme Mcdowell, Hank Haney, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, and even Michael Jordan (yes, THAT Michael Jordan), were all present at the show, and there’s something supremely surreal knowing that you’re in the same building as these guys. It adds to the already fever-pitched excitement.
The atmosphere that is created at the show simply cannot be described on paper, but it is something special. Golf talk is heard wherever you turn, and it’s as if you’ve stepped into a world of people just like you, who share the same interests of you. Everyone is speaking the same language, even if they don’t speak English. Golf has united people for centuries, but I’ve never seen a better example of it then here. Every corner of the earth was represented, all because of a love for the greatest game on Earth, and the culture inside the building was something unique and something I’ve never felt before.
I considered it a great privilege to visit the PGA Merchandise Show, especially considering my young age. I saw very few high school aged kids there, and I knew that what I was experiencing was something very special. It is something I will never forget, and the mass of cultures represented there is something that I feel very honored to have seen. People love golf, and the show was the biggest testament to that fact that I had ever seen, and a testament to the fact that golf is cool, fun, entertaining, and never going to die. And that should be an encouragement to everyone.
It will be a long time before I think of the Show in the same way again. Being able to share it with Bo, and in turn have his help in producing videos that share it with our viewers, made the 2015 edition much more special than a few days of sunshine and warmer temps. This one was special.
I was blessed to introduce a jaw-dropping moment with a rookie.
Welcome to the Show.