The 57th PGA Merchandise Show is now officially...
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PGA Merchandise Show: Day 2 Notebook
LPGA players - both past and present - made their presence felt on the second day of the 57th PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Our Craig Dolch caught up with Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.
By Craig Dolch, Special to PGA.com
ORLANDO -– Everywhere you turned Friday, there was an LPGA professional signing autographs or taking pictures at the 57th PGA Merchandise Show.
Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez pulled double duty, doing a pair of meet-and-greet stints with fans at her Nancy Lopez Women's Golf booth. About a 9-iron away, Paula Creamer – who many believe will someday join Lopez in the Hall of Fame – had the longest line at the LPGA Tour booth.
Also at the Show were Anna Nordqvist, who won her first major championship last year, Brittany Lang, Christina Kim, Angela Stanford, Stacy Lewis, Vicky Hurst and Kristy McPherson.
While it's true the women professionals are available because the LPGA's contracted schedule doesn't start in Thailand until mid-February, something else was clear: The ladies' smiles weren't as forced as they were a year ago.
After a player revolt last season led to the resignation of LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who had angered many sponsors with her hard-line approach, the tour finally is seeing better days ahead.
"I liked Carolyn, and I wished it would have worked out for her," Lopez said. "But when it was clear that it wasn't working out, something had to be done. I see a lot more smiles these days at the LPGA."
New commissioner Michael Whan was hired in late-October. Not only has he stopped sponsors from ending their relationships with the LPGA, he has even gotten one of the old tournaments back on this year's schedule.
The recent changes have Creamer looking forward to the 2010 season for reasons other than hoping to win her first major title.
"I'm definitely excited with our new commissioner and really looking forward for the new vision he has for us," Creamer said. "We have such a great product, with a ton of great athletes. The world is starting to see that. We're going through some tough times, just like anybody. But we are a strong tour; we can bounce back. The next couple years are going to be big years for us."
Despite being out of full-time competitive golf for a decade, Lopez remains a popular draw with fans of all ages. She doesn't mind taking the time to talk to them about their game and their equipment.
"When I was first starting to play, they really had nothing like this kind of quality women's golf equipment," Lopez said, pointing to her line of products. "I remember when Arnold (Palmer) first talked to me about starting my own line, he told me how much it would help the women's game. If you don't have the proper equipment, your talent is never going to come out.
"That's why the PGA having this Merchandise Show is such a good thing. It gives all golfers a chance to enjoy this game more."
Awards handed out: Jack Barber of Meridian Hills in Indianapolis, Ind., was honored Thursday night as the PGA Golf Professional of the Year at the PGA Show.
Other awards: PGA First Lady of Golf – Donna Caponi-Byrnes; PGA Teacher of the Year – Mike Bender of Lake Mary, Fla.; PGA Horton Smith Award – Derek Hardy of Sana Ana, Calif.,; PGA Junior Golf Leader – Vicki Vanderpool of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Bill Strausbaugh Award – Dennis Satyshur of Timonium, Md; PGA Professional Player of the Year – Rick Shuller of Chester, Va.; Senior PGA Professional of the Year – Chris Starkjohann of Oceanside, Calif; and PGA President's Plaque – Kyle Heyen of Arvada, Colo.