The 2011 PGA Expo began with a bang Tuesday, with a star-studded cast of special guests and events welcoming PGA Professionals, buyers and industry leaders at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in the heart of the famed Las Vegas Strip.
PGA of America President Allen Wronowski hit a ceremonial drive perfectly on cue with confetti cannons to officially open the expo, which was quickly transformed into a marketplace bustling with business as 200-plus exhibitors showed off their latest apparel, golf equipment and accessory lines. A full schedule of educational seminars, guest speakers and fashion presentations also highlighted the first day of the 27th PGA Expo, which continues Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
"There are always new products to see, and there is nothing better than coming to Las Vegas this time of year for a getaway," said Kyle Howard, PGA Professional and buyer from Golf Etc. in Odessa, Texas. "I'm here to buy apparel for the fall and for next spring. So far, I've seen several lines I've never seen before."
"This is Old Home Week for me, because I'm originally from Las Vegas and this is the only time of the year I get to network with all of the people I have worked with in the golf business," said Bari Brandwynne, PGA teaching professional at Los Angeles Country Club. "I like to attend the educational seminars and to pick up some (PGA) MSR hours. The education courses and the guest speakers this year are exceptional."
Renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon, who has taught touring professionals Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and many others, drew a standing-room-only crowd on the Main Stage Tuesday to help tee off the first full day of exhibitions and presentations. The 68-year-young Harmon encouraged golf professionals to "teach with passion and enthusiasm" and encouraged golf instructors to "keep it simple; less is more when it comes to teaching golf."
In the afternoon, NBC-Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing engaged in an insightful session on the Main Stage during which he reviewed his memorable moments covering the Ryder Cup Matches, U.S. Open and various PGA Tour events, during which he has interviewed a galaxy of starts such as Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and a litany of major champions. Rolfing said Palmer was his all-time favorite interview and that the Ryder Cup Matches were his favorite event to cover.
"Arnie was always gracious with his time and always a great interview," noted Rolfing. "My most memorable interview ever was when Arnie played his final round in his final U.S. Open at Oakmont on June 17, 1994. He came out of the scoring tent after signing his scorecard and came right over to me. By the time the interview was over, we were both in tears. I absolutely love the Ryder Cup because it has passion and a type of pressure you don't find in other golf events, since you are playing for team and country. Every Ryder Cup has a different character and a different set if storylines. They all have drama, especially by the time Sunday's singles matches roll around."
Several companies used the PGA Expo to launch new products and introduce new lines to the thousands of attendees on Tuesday.
Quagmire Golf co-owner and Creative Director Geoff Tait launched the Arnie Line of apparel based on the fashions worn by World Golf Hall of Famer Arnold Palmer during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Tait literally sorted through Palmer's closets in Latrobe, Pa., with Arnie's daughter, Amy Palmer Saunders, and sorted through archives of photos focusing on Arnie's apparel during his heyday in professional golf to inspire the fresh designs that represent a throwback to each decade with performance fabrics and retro designs.
"We're looking at a whole new generation of Arnold Palmer clothing inspired by what Arnie wore in the '50s, '60s and 70s," noted Tait. "The '50s-style clothing has collars and other features just like the shirts and sweaters Arnie wore, while the '60s line is more retro, and the '70s line is more modern looking and features performance fabrics and some all-cotton pieces. Arnie and his daughter have helped us in the design phase every step of the way, and the early response to the new Arnie Line has been tremendous. We have special arrangements to make sure we can fill the demand."
AHEAD also was scoring significant attention on Day 1 with its new additions to the PGA Authentics Performance Collection line, which debuted at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. "The PGA Authentics brand has been very well accepted since it was first introduced in Orlando, and it just keeps gaining momentum," said Jeff Waller, national sales manager for AHEAD and PGA Authentics. "The PGA has always been a strong brand, so it was very popular from the moment it was launched early this year."
"That's what I like about the PGA Expo in Las Vegas -- you can always see the latest apparel and be the first to see what's going to be hot the next year," said Scott Olberts, PGA Professional and buyer at Aspen Valley Country Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. "I'm looking for tee prizes for our tournaments coming up, and I've already seen a lot of new products we will bring in this fall and next season."
The 2011 PGA Expo special events continued Tuesday evening after the exhibit hall doors close. The sixth annual Elations Industry Reception at the stylish TAO Nightclub at the Venetian Hotel drew a large crowd, with complimentary beer, wine, cocktails, martinis, hors d'oeuvres, and music. A new Opening Night After Party also followed at the LAVO Nightclub at the Palazzo Hotel adjacent to The Venetian Hotel.
The 2011 PGA Expo concludes Wednesday with several topical issues being discussed on the Main Stage. Industry leaders will participate in a panel discussion focusing on "Golf Course Ownership - Adding Value and Building Success" at 9:30 a.m., followed by a PGA Merchandisers of the Year Best Practices seminar sponsored by PGA Magazine at 10:45 a.m. A blue-ribbon professional panel will discuss "Golf Industry Votes: Making Your Voice Heard on Issues Affecting the Golf Industry" at noon, while award-winning TNT broadcaster and author Jim Huber will discuss his highly acclaimed book, "Four Days in July," which chronicles Tom Watson's near-victory in the 2009 British Open at 1:15 p.m.