LAS VEGAS -- You aren't often greeted by bagpipes at 8:45 a.m. to start your day (at least, I'm not), but it does make for an interesting and enthusiastic day. A chorus of bagpipes made their way trough the convention center at the Venetian hotel to signal the start of the PGA Fall Expo.
* PGA of America President Allen Wronowski kicked off (teed off?) the Expo with a ceremonial opening shot. Perfect timing with a confetti gun was a nice touch. But you don't want to be the guy who cleans that up.
* First stop on the show floor is at a booth for Evangolf. They make golf apparel -- unlike any I've ever seen. Boasting skinny ties for men and "bustier polos" for women, it's a cross between 80s geek and 2011 chic. Perhaps I'm just getting old, but for a younger crowd than moi.
* Main clothing stalwarts of adidas, Ashworth and Antigua are here (Triple A connection?). PING apparel, Bobby Jones, Cutter & Buck and Greg Norman as well. Some new companies that I'm not familiar with are also here. Mostly traditional looking. John Anderson from Antigua tells me that it's all about functionality and performance. It's the high-tech fabrics and blends, cottons are pretty much losing proportions for golf apparel makers at this time.
* Ladies should check out apparel company, "4 all by jofit." Leslie, the sales rep, says not only are they stylish, moisture wicking, affordable and functional -- they are designed to flatter the fit by "slimming" the body. I know nothing about women's fashion (heck, or men's some say) but I can see this company doing well for a while to come.
* Noticed that though men are 80 percent of golfers, women's apparel is 60 percent of apparel vendors. Susan Fornoff, from GottaGoGolf, tells me that women make more than 80 percent of purchasing decisions.
* Huge crowd (500?) gathered around main stage for Butch Harmon and a clinic on golf instruction. Standing six deep after all chairs taken. Interesting and very cool to see so many great teachers so engrossed in learning from a peer.
* One of the coolest things I've seen -- ever. Towels called Xtreme Cooling Towel from Real X gear. Just get them wet (not neccesarily cold water) and the towel stays cold (real cold) for six to eight hours. Durable, looks nice and perfect for getting out on the course on these scorching summer days. Yes, I'm buying one for me. So simple and yet so brilliant. If I could award best new product, it'd be these guys. They are expanding into caps, visors, headbands, etc. Check 'em out at www.realxgear.com.
* It’s not just vendors/exhibitors/manufacturers here at the PGA Fall Expo. Several seminars and town hall-type forums are going on as well, covering everything from fitness tips to social media help. Also, industry leaders are among guests. Lunch with Cathy Harbins, Executive Director of Golf 20/20. Some great new programs and initiatives heading to a golf course near you soon.
* The realism of golf simulators is now getting freaky. Full Swing Golf might have the best. Their ballistic spin camera captures information from the moment of impact and their incredibly detailed graphics make it seem as if you're looking out over an actual golf course. I don’ t think these simulators will ever replace the joy of actually being out on a golf course – but it’s more possible now than just a year or two ago. Then again, I don’t know of too many courses that will cost you $50,000 to play ... so maybe it’s a wash.
* The first day of the PGA Expo is ending with a PGA Member townhall meeting featuring PGA President Allen Wronowski and PGA CEO Joe Steranka. I was fortunate enough to snag an invite. The room was full, but all 4,000 PGA Professionals here at this Expo should have been there. It's like a university seminar/discussion on the state of golf with the two leading experts in the world.
* Late night activities tonight include a welcome party at Tao nightclub. It's a very happening place, but I'm guessing there'll be a ton of golf shirts there.