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The (Nearly) 40-Year Old (PGA Show) Virgin

1/27/2013


Over the course of a man's life, certain dates just stick out as landmark events. First kiss (Beth Weckler, October 23, 1989). First date with your future wife (October 9, 1993). 21st birthday. (October 20, 1994) Wedding day (September 4, 1999) First "time" (ditto). Kids being born. First 155-hole marathon for charity (June 22, 2011). First dunk (TBD).

Then there's January 25, 2013. After 39 years, 3 months and 5 days of anticipation, I finally popped my PGA Show cherry.

The PGA Merchandise Show is golf's Super Bowl. Every January, the Orange County Convention Center is filled with golf industry insiders, buyers, reps, media, celebrities and entrepreneurs looking to see the hot products for the upcoming year. For the Average Joe like you or me, this usually means being on the outside looking in. Our only glimpse of the action is from YouTube clips, GolfWRX threads or equipment blog posts. To me, the PGA show has always looked like a magical fairyland of golf gadgetry. Oh what I wouldn't do for one of those badges.

Thanks to my good friends at TRUE linkswear and my self-labeled 'Brand Ambassador' title, I bagged a badge. It was on like Donkey Kong.


The show runs from Thursday to Saturday, with a huge demo day on Wednesday to boot. I flew in on Thursday night, so only had one day to see as much as possible. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I woke up ridiculously early and couldn't get back to sleep. 9:00 AM couldn't come fast enough.

Probably like many other first timers before me, my experience got off to a clunky start. My mentor/chaperone/sage show guru/fellow One Divot board member/friend Tom had an appointment in the morning, so I was left to wander the floor on my own. After seeing the rows and rows of apparel outfitters and other soft goods exhibits, I felt overwhelmed. I made over to the TMAG (Taylor Made, Adidas, Ashworth, Adams) exhibit, though exhibit doesn't really do it justice. You go through a dark tunnel to a separate wing, essentially Taylor Made has its own show within the show. I shall call it Conglomerica.


From the look of the entrance and some of the stories I'd heard, I expected smoke machines, laser light shows, DJ DJ (Dustin Johnson) cutting and scratching on the 1s and 2's, free giveaways and cirque du soleil performers on a high-wire acrobatically dodging range balls hit by patrons below. Instead, I entered a half-empty room with a bunch of dudes in sportcoats, some clubs scattered about and Adele playing on the loudspeakers. I wandered around aimlessly before noticing a room mark LETHAL with a bouncer manning the entrance. This had to be important. Fully expecting to get put into a half-nelson, I approached the intimidating figure.

"You want to get some free golf balls?" the bouncer asked.

"Yeah, who doesn't," I replied.

"Aiight. Come right in then."

V-I-P, beaatches! Now I had found my calling. This is what the show was about. The Schwag! Besides, I was playing Streamsong in a few days and needed as many new nuggets as I could get.

Once inside the small room, I waited for a minute while others leaned over the counter to listen to the sales pitch. I could almost see the thought bubbles over their head: "Can I just get my sleeve of balls and get outta here?" I saw some savvy, experienced schwagologists strategically maneuver their way towards the front. Again, I felt out of me league and just left. I'm a Bridgestone guy anyways.

Schwagometer (pronounced Schwa-GOM-eter and not SCHWAG-o-meter): None

Thankfully, all was not lost. I stumbled on the booth for the new TaylorMade R1 driver, the one with the funky racing stripes on the crown. I talked to a nice young woman and explained that I've been a loyal TaylorMade woods guy for a few years now. She seemed impressed enough to offer me a position on the TM staff. On the strength of a handshake agreement, I was officially a member of the TMAG crew! I can't wait to get next month's Golf Digest to see if my 'look like some fan just coughed in your backswing or somebody just reminded you that you missed a 10-footer to win the British Open' staredown will make a full-page ad.


Schwagometer Update: Taylor Made Unleash The Beast Print; possible long-term, incentive-laden equipment contract

Still dazed and confused, I left Club TMAG and entered the main apparel hall. Thankfully, I ran into my good friend, Ballyneal GM Matt Payne and we caught up for a bit. I received a text from Tom, and we agreed to meet up at the booth for Kentwool socks. They were a big supporter of the Hundred Hole Hike, and we wanted to stop by and thank them personally.

We met briefly with Kent at Kentwool. I expressed my gratitude at their support and showed him how I was devoted convert of their products. I made a comment about the wild blue-and-orange striped socks on display (as part of their 19th Hole collection), which matched my Illini colors. He grabbed a pair and just handed them to me. "Here, take 'em." Boom! Better yet, poor Tom was standing right there the whole time and didn't get the same royal treatment. He left scratching his head, wondering if he should've mentioned his beloved Brown Bears.

Hail to the orange, hail to the blue
Schwagometer Update: Kentwool striped-socks (if you don't think I'm wearing the socks right now with Tom on the other side of the hotel room still wondering what went wrong, then obviously you don't know me very well)


From there, it was back to see Rob, Wags and the guys at TRUE linkswear. Rob was busy being interviewed, but his colleague Michael handed me a sneak peek of the HHH Special Edition True proto. These are my gamers. I also picked up a pair of TRUE senseis (the whole 2013 line-up at TRUE is amazing, the sensei's are unbelievably comfortable).


Schwagometer Update: TRUE linkswear proto and sensei. TRUE bumper sticker.

Now I was in a groove. We made the rounds to all of the other supporters of the Hike, mostly to say thanks but also brainstorm how to make things bigger and better for 2013 (lots more to come on that). I stopped by Prestige Flags. We shared a meal with our friends at Buffalo Communications. Tom swooned over a bag the Mackenzie guys had made for him. It was being lent out and on display in the Greg Norman apparel exhibit. We stopped by Edel Golf (Edel's booth was buzzing with the just-announced partnership with Nick Faldo). I finally got to meet John Ashworth (and could've stolen every size L item on display in the Linksoul collection). We had a great meeting with Bridgestone Golf. I even got the chance to swing by Frogg Toggs booth to thank them for possibly saving my life during last year's 107-degree hike.

Schwagometer Update: dozen Bridgestone B330, Linksoul sticker, Frogg Togg chamois and water bottle

By the late afternoon, the crowds and the buzz started to die down. The only crowded booths were the ones giving away free beer. We slumped on the couches of the TRUE booth until the 6 PM curtain call came over the P.A. system. A couple minutes later, they shut off half the lights.

My knees ached. My brain hurt. As I mentioned on twitter, I needed to seek immediate medical attention for a golf erection that had lasted for over eight hours. The day was over. After years of anticipation, I had finally joined the club. It was even better than I had expected. And I can't wait to do it again next year.

The First Annual Colties: Celebrating Excellence at the PGA Merchandise Show

I launched a few of these on Twitter yesterday, so apologies for any regurgitated material. I only have so much to go around.

The Coltie Award for Best Golf Shoe

The nominees are...
 
A. TRUE linkwear down with the brown protos




B. The special edition HHH TRUE protos (pictured earlier)

C. The TRUE chukkas


And the winner is...the TRUE linkswear chukkas. You may cry foul, saying the Coltie judge is on staff, but seriously...why would anyone think of putting a non-TRUE on their feet? Did you see Foot Joy's sad attempt at Zero Drop technology? As for the chukkas, not only do they look great with khakis, you can also get very creative working them into a sentence with your best Samuel L. Jackson impersonation ("Check out the new shoes on Brett...)

The Coltie Award for Biggest Celebrity Rockstar Following


A. David Ledbetter


B.Butch Harmon


C. Scotty Cameron



D. Winn McMurry


E. Paul Creamer (Paula's evil-twin brother, who may or may not be a porn star. I'm sure somebody got fired over this one.)


 Honorable mention: Matt Ginella, Ashley Mayo, Jason Sobel and John Ashworth

And the winner is...Scotty Cameron in a upset. With a 99:1 sausage ratio, Winn is bound to stick out in a crowd. But Scotty's cult following was around the corner.

The Coltie Award for Most Glaring Outfit

A. the company that makes John Daly's pants (Loudmouth?)



B. Snag Golf (I was confused and whipped a tennis ball at this kid's butt. Sorry.)



C. The McMurray Triplets (it was pretty cold in the convention center)




D. These girls....


And the winner is...the John Daly is so Broke I'll Wear These Ridiculous Pants Company. Congratulations.

The Coltie Award for Best Trophy

A.The PGA Senior Championship Trophy


B. The Claret Jug



C. The Ryder Cup (almost saw the Ryder Cup take a tumble off that wood base as they tried to move it)


D. The FedEx Cup (remember that Never Been Kissed campaign and Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller handling it with white gloves? Have any of the five winners bothered to kiss it yet? Well, I thumbed it. Also, I was just wondering what it might look like if Tiger's wins are ever expunged in a HGH scandal)


E. PGA Tour Wives Association


And the winner is...the Claret Jug. The Ryder Cup is still too painful (seeing Steve Stricker on 17 & 18 was almost as bad as seeing him in a Wisconsin Badger hat cheering against his alma mater). So Claret wins by default. For all our sakes...please don't let Peter Dawson anywhere near it.

The Coltie Award for Product Most Likely to be Found During HHH2013


A.  This Safari hat with built-in, solar-powered fan


B. Seamus Golf Headcovers


And the winner is...the first one that can get me 120 of them (hopefully Seamus)

Special Coltie Award for Best Multi-Dimensional Product Since the Two-Sided Chipper


The winner is...The Faldo by Edel iron. Also doubles as a butter knife.

The Special Coltie Award for Best Reminder that Golf Ain't Out of the Woods Just Yet


This depressing scene is just a block from the convention center. Let's hope all that Grow the Game and Golf 2.0 talk is more than just that.



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