Local companies make big showing at PGA Merchandise Show

ORLANDO, Fla. - The PGA Merchandise Show is - as far as the golf industry is concerned - the major annual event for the sport, and last week's 65th staging at the Orange County Convention Center underscored that.

The show, which draws about 40,000 visitors annually, featured more than 7,500 PGA professionals from all 50 states and 87 countries. In addition to those from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Korea, Japan and Taiwan had big contingents. Over 1,000 media representatives from 25 countries were also on hand, and 36 countries received television coverage.

Exhibits were spread over nearly 10 miles of aisles in the massive Convention Center as manufacturers put their new products on display and the two Chicago club manufacturers were in the thick of things.

Buoyed by a big year in 2017, David Glod - president of Batavia-based Tour Edge - did more than put his new lines of Exotics, Hot Launch and Bazooka brands on display. He also revealed some strategic changes for the 32-year-old company.

With the company showing a 25 percent growth over the previous year, Tour Edge has beefed up its staff - particularly on the marketing side. It'll have commercials on The Golf Channel and tour players will have an increased role in promoting Tour Edge products. Tour Edge clubs helped PGA Tour players win 10 tournaments in recent years without the company paying them to use their equipment.

"We'll have a little different approach this year," said Glod during his company's media day preview. "We'll go heavy on the Champions Tour."

One Champions Tour player, Tim Petrovic, even spoke on Tour Edge's behalf during the show preview event.

Chicago-based Wilson stepped up production of its innovative Driver vs. Driver2 series during the show's Demo Day and Tim Clarke, head of the company's golf division, announced two new judges: hockey great Jeremy Roenick and PGA professional/coach Rick Shiels.

The series, which made its Golf Channel debut in 2016, features aspiring club designers competing to have their concepts transformed into the model that Wilson will use for its next driver. Clarke returns as a judge and Melanie Collins will again be the emcee of the series, which will make its TV debut in the fall after the Ryder Cup matches.

The Chicago-based Western Golf Association also made news, announcing a groundbreaking initiative to promote youth caddie opportunities. It's called Carry the Game and will operate under the WGA umbrella with the U.S. Golf Association, PGA of America, The First Tee and Youth on Course also involved in the project.

Looking for a more modernized look for your golf cart? How about this one.

"Through Carry the Game, our goal is to provide young people with an early introduction to golf by creating life-changing opportunities to work as a caddie," said John Kaczkowski, the WGA's president and chief executive officer. "Ultimately we believe the experiences and mentorship gained through caddying are invaluable to a young person's development and will help cultivate a lifelong passion for playing the game."

Other product introductions included Callaway's line of Rogue drivers and fairway woods with Jailbreak technology; Cobra's F8 drivers with Cobra Connect technology; TaylorMade's M3 and M4 drivers with new Twist Face technology and Titleist's new Tour Soft and Velocity golf balls.

These giant tees will be in abundance as the next Ryder Cup in Paris closes in.

The best three new products among merchandise displayed at the show, as determined by voters from the PGA and the top buyers, were Chippo Golf, a game for backyard, beach or tailgate events; Rhineland Cutlery, custom engraved cutlery sets targeting golf events; and Tsu Tsu Sport, a colorful apparel collection.

Each PGA Merchandise Show also has an Inventor's Spotlight, for products not yet available at retail outlets. Best of those, according to selectors, was the Impact Improver - an indoor training device.

Many of the products introduced in Orlando will also be available at three upcoming Chicago area shows - the Tinley Park Golf Expo Feb. 9/11 at the Tinley Park Convention Center, the Northern Illinois Expo Feb. 16-18 at the Lake County Fair Grounds and the Chicago Golf Show Feb. 23-25 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

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National honors for Ziehm

Three stories by golf writer Len Ziehm from 2017 were recently recognized at the 24th annual International Network of Golf Media Awards presentation as part of the 65th PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

Ziehm's article for the Daily Herald, "Koepka wins first major," was the winner in the Competition Writing category. It told the story of Brooks Koepka's victory in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last June.

He also received Outstanding Achiever mentions for two other pieces, one for Travel Writing and the other in the Competition Writing category. The Travel piece, "Simply Grand," appeared in the Daily Herald and spotlighted Wisconsin's Grand Geneva Resort. (That piece also was published in Chicagoland Golf). It was the second year in which Ziehm has been cited in the Travel Writing category.

The other mention was for "Make It a Double," which appeared in the Chicago District Golfer. It was a report on Patrick Flavin's victories in the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open.

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