Notes from the PGA Merchandise Show

January 24, 2014
A view of the PGA Forum stage at the PGA Merchandise Show this weekend in Florida. BY FRITZ SCHRANCK

Butch Holtzclaw and several other Cape Region golf professionals have a nice sense of timing. An Arctic clipper blasted into the Cape Region just as the pros headed south to Orlando, Fla., for the PGA Merchandise Show. This is the biggest trade show in golf, taking up most of the million square feet of the Orange County Convention Center.

I was lucky enough to be able to obtain press credentials for the show this year, and I took advantage of the new Frontier Airline flights out of Wilmington just as this week's snowstorm began. My luck continued on the flight. I noticed my Row 8 seatmate taking off his PGA jacket as we readied for takeoff.

Mike Cole is the former head golf pro at Penn Oaks CC near West Chester, Pa. The 1971 Concord High School golfer now works as an independent sales representative for well-known golf lines, such as Cleveland Golf/Srixon, and for new entrants into the golf business such as New Balance.

"I was the pro at Penn Oaks from 1980 through 1998, when we moved to Bucks County," for his wife's then-employer, Cole said. After a few more years as a pro, Cole decided to give sales a try. "One of my friends told me this, and he was right: 'You'll work no fewer hours in sales, but you'll spend them on your own terms,'" Cole said.

He first worked with Srixon, which specialized in golf balls. The company's success eventually led to its purchase of Cleveland Golf.

Cole's territory includes much of southeastern Pennsylvania and all of Delaware. He spoke highly of the Cape Region golf pros with whom he works. "About 75 to 80 percent of my time is spent on Cleveland. Their big sellers are their wedges, balls, and putters. They continue to sell drivers and other clubs, but that's not their main focus. New Balance is new to golf, but they're the second-largest athletic shoe maker in the world," he said.

Small wonder, then, that Cole was so optimistic about New Balance's chances for making it in the golf shoe biz.

"Their new Minimus line, which they introduced on Jan. 1, is based on their athletic shoe lasts, and is very light and water resistant. The company's reputation is for really comfortable shoes, and that's a major factor for golfers, too," Cole said.

After we landed, Cole was heading to the show's Demo Day & Instructional Workshops, held at the nearby Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Fla. He expected to meet with Holtzclaw and the gang from The Rookery on Wednesday, while also fitting in some booth time at Cleveland/Srixon.

A short, sharp downpour halted the demo day activities for a while that Wednesday afternoon. I spent the time walking the cavernous halls of the west wing of the convention center until I found the media center and completed the registration/credentialing process.

Most golf folks were busy elsewhere at the demo day, and the relatively few working at the center were predominantly busy with preparations for the three-day main event from Wednesday through Friday. Sound checks rang out in one large space, while other staff rolled in racks of sample wares from one of the apparel companies.

The media credential package included a 434-page buyer's guide and directory for the show. The floor plans, I was thankful to see, opened up to multi-page dimensions, with most of the book devoted to alphabetical exhibitor listings and advertisements.

Next week's column will discuss what I saw and heard at the show, along with the perspectives of the Cape Region golf pros who also attended.

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