PGA Show, NGCOA Conference Returns to Orlando
By Scott Kauffman
Three days after the PGA of America and trade-show partner Reed Exhibitions wrapped up their annual PGA Golf Show last Friday in Orlando, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket ship successfully launched from nearby Cape Canaveral and the rocket could be seen soaring across a picturesque sunset horizon.
In some respects, the rocket represented a fitting metaphoric tribute to a golf industry coming off rocket-ship like growth in 2021. Indeed, by most measurable metrics, the entire industry is realizing a rejuvenation of golf interest and participation since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and revenues have soared in the past two years for nearly every facet of the golf business.
And the latest metric to prove golf’s rocket-like momentum is not going to be deterred by the ongoing pandemic, was evident at last week’s 69th PGA Show. At least that’s one way to describe the nearly 15,000 PGA Professionals, golf leaders, industry executives and retailers who showed up for the four-day major golf business event – in person - after Covid-19 forced last year’s event to be held online.
To be sure, there were some conspicuous absentees at this year’s affair. For instance, most of the major golf equipment companies like Callaway and TaylorMade were absent at the popular Demo & Fitting Day that kicked off the show Jan. 25th at Orange County National Golf Center.
Over the subsequent three days of trade-show activity at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando’s massive venue missed having many of golf’s perennial high-profile vendors from Ping to Titleist and Nike. Nevertheless, this global golf affair still featured more than 600 brands on its showcase trade floors, including major golf suppliers such as Bridgestone, Club Car and E-Z-GO, and several leading media organizations from the Golf Channel to CBS Sports HQ and SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio network.
Meanwhile, the National Golf Course Owners Association was back in person conducting its annual Golf Business Conference and trade show, highlighted by a lunchtime appearance from Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sorenstam. Sorenstam was the recipient of the NGCOA’s 2022 Award of Merit, the organization’s most prestigious award which recognizes long-term and significant contributions to the game of golf.
As for the business side, many vendors and attendees were glad they showed up for this year’s PGA Show, and by most accounts, traffic and qualified leads were plentiful. According to Golfzon’s James McDonald, national director of sales for North America, the golf simulator’s large marquee and multiple bays were packed from start to finish.
“I honestly haven’t left this booth much because we had so much traffic,” said McDonald, who was making his 15th visit to the PGA Show after a previous career as the longtime assistant pro at Connecticut’s private Stanwich Club.
“Coming into this we didn’t know what we were going to get. … I was expecting a down year. I was expecting less traffic. But here, in the Golfzon/David Leadbetter Golf Academy booth, candidly I haven’t left but for one trip over to CBS Sports.”
Perhaps London-based Richard Prosser of apparel company Lyle & Scott summed up the 69th PGA Show best when he said his company’s decision to come to the event was “the best decision we could have made.”
“The engagement with golf professionals and buyers is truly great,” added Prosser, the company’s international sales manager. “It’s given us a chance to tell our story in a way that you just can’t do on the other end of the phone or a laptop. That’s integral to our success, and people really like being here together.”