ORLANDO, Fla. — The PGA Merchandise Show is usually the only trade show I attend each year. It brings together an assortment of manufacturers, PGA professionals, golf shop retailers, apparel buyers, industry insiders and members of the golf media.
This is my eighth show, and I still chuckle every time I hear someone in a hallway or a hotel lobby say, with complete sincerity, "Hey ... Have a good show!"
I sat next to Tom Stites, Nike Golf's director of product innovation, on my shuttle ride from the airport to the Hertz Rental Car site. Swooshes on his shoes, eyewear and luggage were a dead giveaway. He told me this is his 23rd PGA Show.
Stites, a Ft. Worth resident, laughed as he told me a story about a former co-worker who had way too many drinks one night during a PGA Show many years ago. The guy lost his rental car, and instead of trying to find it the next day, he simply got on his plane and left town.
"I think it topped out about 10 years ago," Stites said with just a hint of Texas drawl. Since then, he said, the PGA Show's importance has waned because the timing is just not great for many manufacturers.
In the old days, pros and shop owners from around the country would come to Orlando in January and buy the things that would line the walls of pro shops in the spring. But these days, most companies have already released their 2009 products, and they sell them through regional representatives.
With the struggling economy and the changing landscape for the golf industry, I wonder how many people will be able to match Stites's run of 23 PGA Shows in their careers?