This week is PGA Merchandise Show week, and we can chalk that up as the latest golf event to be impacted by the pandemic.
Normally, this in-person gathering in Orlando, Florida, is as good a place to connect with friends and business contacts as exists in golf. Whether it’s on the floor of the cavernous Orange County Convention Center, with its miles and miles of aisles, or in nearby eateries and watering holes like the Hyatt Bar and Capital Grille, which are as chock full of industry power brokers as the ground beneath the oak trees at Augusta National during Masters week.
For those reasons I have always found the PGA Show both fun and effective.
But with COVID-19 still a great concern, the Show has gone virtual. So this year, I will be performing my duties from the confines of my Connecticut home – bearded, shaggy-haired and clad in lounge pants and T-shirts as opposed to being (somewhat) well-coiffed and wearing khakis, a Brooks Brothers button-down and a blazer.
I appreciate how the PGA of America and Reed Exhibitions have endeavored to make the virtual show work. And they have done a lot. But I nonetheless wish I were down in Orlando.
I’ll miss my long walks around the massive, circular driving range at Orange County National, where Demo Day is traditionally staged the Tuesday of Show week and PGA professionals line up four-deep to hit the latest in irons and woods. There is joy in seeing all the spanking new equipment and hearing the sounds of well-struck, urethane-covered golf balls click against steel and titanium clubfaces.
The strolls around the convention center in subsequent days are pleasing, too, even though the bright lights and recycled air of the edifice makes it easy to lose track of time, space and what is going on in the outside world. I like meeting with sources from the equipment realm in their booths, and chatting with my pals in the travel section about golf tours to Ireland and Scotland. I also relish chance encounters with mates who make their livings as PGA club professionals. The atmosphere is all about golf, and we revel in it.
For the vast majority of attendees, the PGA Show represents the start of a new golf season, and that also puts something of a bounce in our steps. We are excited about the year ahead and optimistic that it will be a good one. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we might even allow ourselves to dream of how next-generation golf gear will help us bring our handicaps down a stroke or two.
I’m sorry that this year I will have to do all that from home.