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With nearly 1,000 companies, including 225 new to the event, the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show officially began in Orlando on Thursday. New product launches are a big part of the Show, but there's also a focus on building the game globally.

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Attendees preview products during Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show. (Pritchard/PGA of America)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Providing a positive path from recession to recovery, and shining the spotlight on golf as a growing global industry, the 58th PGA Merchandise Show rolls out the red carpet today through Saturday for more than 40,000 industry leaders, PGA Professionals and retailers from 75 countries, and for nearly 1,000 of the brightest brands, manufacturers and marketers at the Orange County Convention Center.

Riding the momentum of a more buoyant economy, marked by a strong uptick in holiday retail sales and a higher stock market, the 58th PGA Merchandise Show will set the tone for the golf business cycle with an ambitious schedule of product launches, Education Conference seminars and a variety of special events. Today's schedule is highlighted by a global golf announcement by the PGA World Alliance that will include news of a collaborative business development in China, and subsequent headliner panel discussion on the Asian golf marketplace featuring Greg Norman, Hank Haney and Michael Breed today at 10 a.m. on the PGA Equipment Forum stage. The PGA of America Awards Night this evening in the Linda W. Chapin Theater also punctuates the 2011 Show schedule.  

While nearly 1,000 companies, including 225 new to the PGA Merchandise Show, unveil their latest innovations and inventions, the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show Education Conference will explore important issues, trends and developments shaping the future of golf business. More than 65 seminars will be presented by the industry's foremost experts in management, retail, facility operations and instruction. Social media, new technology and environmental issues will also be discussed.   

"The opportunities to advance ourselves and our businesses are abundant during PGA Merchandise Show Week in 2011," says PGA of America President Allen Wronowski.

New product launches by major manufacturers; many celebrity appearances; the return of the Fashion Gallery stage for exhibitor fashion shows and merchandising education programs; multiple New Product Centers to highlight new products in various categories; a new Inventors' Spotlight Pavilion for patented products not yet available at retail; numerous specialty exhibitor pavilions including fitness, training aids and golf travel; the second annual Career Fair; and opportunities to test the latest golf equipment and accessories at the Indoor Demo Days area on the Show floor will be among the daily features at this week's PGA Merchandise Show.

"You have unprecedented value across all levels again at this year's Show," explains PGA Golf Exhibitions Senior Vice President and General Manager Ed Several.

The new Fashion Gallery offers a main stage for exhibitor fashion shows, designer panels, celebrity appearances, and merchandising seminars to fill each Show day schedule through Saturday. Adjacent to the Fashion Gallery stage is the new Apparel/Accessories New Product Center, where buyers will find a collection of the newest merchandise in one setting.

The 58th PGA Merchandise Show and the 95th anniversary celebration of The PGA of America begins today with 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team member Matt Kuchar joining celebrated saxophonist and golf enthusiast Branford Marsalis and PGA of America officials in the traditional grand opening ceremony above the main entrance to the convention center exhibition hall. At 8:15 a.m., PGA of America officials will officially present Kuchar with the Vardon Trophy for low stroke average on the 2010 PGA Tour.

PGA Merchandise Show Week got off to a productive start with the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit at the Faldo Golf Institute, and with the PGA Magazine Merchandisers of the Year Conference at Reunion Resort on Monday and Tuesday in Orlando. The popular PGA Merchandise Show Outdoor Demo Day occupied the spotlight Wednesday at Orange County National Golf Center. 

Sun shines on world's largest Outdoor Demo Day

Thousands of PGA Professionals and golf retailers tested the latest innovations in golf equipment and accessories during the ninth annual PGA Merchandise Show Outdoor Demo Day on a breezy-but-beautiful Wednesday on the 42-acre practice facility at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Fla.

Billed as the world's largest professional golf-testing event, more than 90 companies used the event to unveil a variety of new drivers, irons, putters, fairway woods, hybrids and wedges across the 200 hitting bays, five practice greens, New Product Preview area and the vendor village to showcase a litany of new golf products.

Market leaders such as Adams Golf, Bridgestone, Callaway Golf, Cleveland Golf/Srixon, Cobra, Mizuno, Nike Golf, Ping, TaylorMade Golf, Titleist, Tour Edge, Wilson and many others used the hands-on, interactive Outdoor Demo Day to launch new products and set a positive tone for a fruitful 2011 business cycle.

"We can talk about our products, but there is no substitute for actually hitting product and evaluating performance," noted Mike Ferris, global vice president of product marketing for TaylorMade Golf. "The turnout is great, and there is a genuine excitement and enthusiasm at a Demo Day of this magnitude. This is a unique opportunity to inspire and instill confidence in our products for PGA Professionals and other industry leaders."  

While Tuesday's wet weather delayed the start of Outdoor Demo Day by one hour, nothing could dampen the spirits of the estimated 5,000 attendees. By 10:30 a.m., the skies had cleared, the temperature warmed, and the world's largest Outdoor Demo Day saw long lines of attendees hitting the latest golf clubs and trying the newest accessories.

"This is my first Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show, and it's amazing to have all of the great golf brands together at the same facility," said Mike Owens, PGA head professional at Country Oaks Golf Course in Thomasville, Ga. "I have been able to hit every club I've ever dreamed about hitting, and I was able to compare products side by side. This has made my ordering for 2011 very easy."

The 2011 PGA Merchandise Show Outdoor Demo Day was produced by PGA Golf Exhibitions and PGA Magazine, and presented by Aldila. Participating category sponsors included Hirzl (gloves), Excel Golf (tees), Pukka (hats), FlightScope (bags) and Bushnell (water bottles).