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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The 2018 PGA Merchandise Show - Do This - Don’t Do That!

The PGA Merchandise Show is a week or so away and everyone in the golf business is frantically printing, packing boxes and making meetings for golf’s annual trade show. It is the best time in our world to meet old friends, make new ones and take a look into the crazy world of golf merchandise and see what’s new! That’s all everyone wants – new, new, new!

This year will be a very special show. My 13 year old daughter, Lily, will be with me as we show our custom golf candle business, MacDuff Candles. We will be on Booth 4645 courtesy of our friends and U.S. distributor, Signs by the Sea. We started the business last year and are in many great clubs and resorts with our candles featuring club logos, clubhouses and golf course pictures. The candles are a great member guest gift too! Ok, the ad endeth!

So, as you prepare for the show here is my annual round up of Do and Don'ts for the Orlando extravaganza!
  • Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in fancy new loafers
  • Don't sell on other people's booths. They have spent thousands on the space and months preparing for the show - it is just not cool. 
  • Keep hydrated. There are water fountains around the hall and it may well be the only free thing in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)!
  • Don't dress like you are a PGA Tour player – if you were you would be at Riviera.
  • Eat a good breakfast at your hotel because the food in the OCCC is like a hot dog in a movie theater...overcooked and overpriced. Chick-fil-A was there last year – let’s pray they made the cut for 2018
  • Be very specific about where to meet your appointment. Pick a booth, preferably a small one, so you can't miss the person you are meeting.
  • Be prepared to stand and talk. There is nowhere to sit down in the OCCC - Note to the organizers, people are here to meet, so you may want to invest in some chairs.
  • It's a long way from the 1000 aisle to the 6000 aisle so don't make three appointments in 60 minutes in three locations. It's like trying to drive from uptown to downtown in Manhattan at 4 p.m.
  • Be patient. Everyone is busy and often running a few minutes behind. Whether you are buying or selling they will come.
  • Take some time to wander the floor. It’s fun to see many of the 2018 ranges of products ahead of the market. 

See you at the Show!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Sand Valley - America's Next Great Golf Resort

It's a long way from Milwaukee and even farther from Chicago....but, it's a whole lot easier to get to Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, Wisconsin than Bandon Dunes in Oregon. And I guarantee you will have just as much fun. Granted you won't see the ocean, but that's a small price to pay, as this new resort, created by Mike Keiser and his team and managed by Kemper Sports is magnificent.
There is currently one course open, Sand Valley, with the second, Mammoth Dunes, opening next year. When we visited, nine holes of Mammoth were open and we snuck a look at the other nine too. Mammoth is bigger and bolder, but essentially it's over the same piece of property, so like Bandon Dunes the bar room debate will rage about which is the best course.

There's room for several other courses and no doubt that is in the works as the property seems to go on and on as far as the eye can see. Actually a third course, the par 3 course does have six holes open and despite playing off mats was great fun. We found the holes to be almost too short and hopefully when all 17 holes are open the tees will be a little further back and I'm assured they will stretch to more than a wedge. We enjoyed the bunker homage to the Devil's you know what at the 17th. Here I am playing out of it.
We stayed in the clubhouse rooms and these have the luxury of having the putting green right outside the door and easy access to the restaurant and bar. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with lightning fast wi-fi and fabulous showers. After dinner we were blessed with a warm, clear evening for late night putting to LED lit holes. The opportunity to actually see the Milky Way is not something our city group often has and we did more looking up than looking at the golf holes. We were all a little surprised that the putting green didn't more accurately reflect the greens on the golf course - it's flat and nondescript. They would sell a whole lot more beer with a Himalayas style green and there is plenty of room to do it.

On arrival at the first tee of Sand Valley, guests are greeted by a delightful little rustic shack called Craig's Porch. This services the 1st and 10th holes and is staffed by delightful Wisconsinites serving good and very reasonably priced food. This includes an item that is already making noises - Nye's Ice Cream sandwiches. I managed one on the first and tenth on both rounds and my favorite was raspberry cheesecake. If I lived in Wisconsin I would be considerably larger than I am now - these people have great comfort food!

Sand Valley is designed by the magical duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and has their distinctive fingerprints all over it - large landing areas, a number of central hazards and greens designed to baffle. Miss the fairway and you will have no trouble finding your ball - our group didn't lose a ball in 36 holes - but you will be challenged with your next shot. The par 3s, in particular are wonderful and a couple are reminiscent of Pine Valley. The par 5's give you a solid opportunity to make birdie if you are sensible, act your age and play off the orange tees. We did look at the black tees, but really, we were there to have fun and despite the fact that we can all play a bit we still opted to play up and enjoy the game. A couple of the caddies mentioned that high handicaps feel like they are getting their money's worth playing all the way back, which is possibly the craziest thing I have ever heard! Move a tee forward people and enjoy hitting a wedge into the greens and not a 6 iron. That's what Coore and Crenshaw want you to do! (okay, I'm off my soapbox now)

Next year, Mammoth Dunes designed by David McLay Kidd will open in earnest. Yes, the dunes are bigger and this course does have the luxury of starting and finishing by the clubhouse. We collectively wondered why the second course had this premium position even though it was the second course and couldn't find a good answer from anyone. Rather like Sand Hills, the original Coore and Crenshaw masterpiece, a very short bus ride is required to get to the first tee at Sand Valley and also to return from the 18th.

So, there you have it, America's next great golf resort, Sand Valley. A return to firm and fast golf, classic style architecture, friendly people, good food, fun and knowledgeable caddies and gorgeous night skies.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Justin Rose - A Class Act

There was a time when I could beat Justin Rose on the golf course. Okay, he was 11 and I was 30 but who’s counting! When we met at North Hants Golf Club, Justin was shorter than the flagstick.

Justin grew up playing much of his golf at North Hants Golf Club. The club is in Fleet, Hampshire, about 30 miles south west of London. It was built in 1904 by James Braid on classic heathland and shares many characteristics of its more famous neighbors, Sunningdale and Swinley Forest. North Hants was a wonderful course to grow up on, as I did, and although not long it taught you to keep the ball in play and favor the left side. The heather was punishing and with the main Waterloo train line in play on 15, 16 and 17 you were well advised to keep it straight and true.

Justin could be found on the back of the North Hants range most days being coached by his wonderful father, Ken. Even in those days Justin was well mannered, respectful and quietly determined. Both Ken and Annie, his mother, spent countless hours driving Justin around the home counties to play in junior and senior events. As you might imagine, he had great success at these events representing his county (equivalent of state) and GB&I in the Walker Cup as a 17-year old. His amateur trophy collection also includes the St Andrews Links Trophy, English Boys Stroke Play Championship and the Peter McEvoy Trophy.

It was in 1998 that Justin shot to world-wide prominence with his performance in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. A fabulous 66 in the second round shot him up the field into tied second place and headline writers jumped into action - “Rose Blooms”, “Blooming Rose”, “Early Bloom”, “Late Bloomer”. You name it, they wrote it! His fine play continued through the third and fourth rounds, holding his young game together when many others would have cracked.

In the final round, coming to the 18th hole, Justin was in 7th place and with the weight of the British golf public and media on his back he famously holed out from 50 yards over the left-hand bunkers for birdie to finish tied 4th. He memorably raised his hands to the sky in an old Reebok sweater that had seen better days!

And so, it began! The next day Justin turned professional and, unfortunately, didn’t sign with our agency! To most observer’s surprise, he played the following week in the Dutch Open and then the week after that and the week after that. It’s well documented that he missed 21 cuts in a row on the European Tour. I would see him at North Hants most weekends during that time and, despite the disappointment and the pressure, he remained positive and confident that it would turn around. Even with this adversity, Justin earned his Tour card the following year. Also, that year, the sports marketing agency I worked for bought the agency Justin had signed with. And so, for a couple of years I had the pleasure of working with him, signing some solid endorsement deals and getting to know him on a professional level as well as continuing our personal friendship. As his stock rose, so bigger agencies became more interested, including one who made him a financial guarantee our smaller agency could not compete with. No, this wasn’t the movie Jerry Maguire where I learned this news from someone else. Justin called me and said let’s travel together to the next event as I need to discuss something with you. He told me about the deal, the numbers and asked me what I thought. I told him it was too good to turn down and we couldn’t write that kind of check, so take the deal. It was tough to see him move agencies, but it was the right move for him and the way that Justin handled it showed his strength of character and class.

Since that time, Justin’s career has truly blossomed (see, even I can do it!) with 23 professional wins on all the six continents on which golf is played. In addition, he has had extraordinary Ryder Cup successes on four European teams. Of these tournament wins, a couple stand out and have establish Justin in the big league of world players capable of winning on the biggest stages.

The first was at Merion Golf Club, the Pennsylvania gem designed by Hugh Wilson. This was the scene of Justin’s first major victory in 2013. His final round play against Phil Mickelson was outstanding and he became the first Englishman for 43 years to achieve the feat. His long iron play during the week can only be described as legendary.

For the second tournament, I was driving to Atlanta listening to golf on the radio – few things are quite as exciting as that right? It was the last day of the 72-hole 2016 Olympics golf event in Rio and Justin was tied with Henrik Stenson coming down the last hole. Once again, my nerves were in shreds as I listened to the commentary of the 18th hole pitches from Henrik and Justin that would decide the gold and silver medals. On this occasion, Justin prevailed with a deft pitch and putt for birdie and became the first Olympic golf champion since 1904.

In closing, let me talk about this year’s Masters Tournament and another stellar performance by Justin. Like many, I thought his name was on the trophy, but it was not to be. An incredible back nine by Sergio and a wayward play-off tee shot by Justin proved to be his undoing in his continuing quest for the green jacket. It was a great win for Sergio, but I was genuinely upset for Justin. No one watching could fail to have been impressed by the sportsmanship shown by both players. The genuine warmth shown for each other was apparent and real. For Justin, in defeat, to exhibit this emotion was extraordinary and the mark of the man.      

It’s a pleasure to have worked with Justin and I am honored to call him my friend. It’s rare in professional sports to witness a combination of sheer talent, integrity and grace. Justin, you are class act.