Add the PGA Merchandise Show to a long list of 'majors'
ORLANDO, Florida -- Over the course of my career in the golf business, I've been lucky enough to travel to some incredible places and events.
I've covered the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship 11 times apiece. I've covered the PGA Championship 19 times and I've been to 10 Ryder Cups.
I've also sprinkled in a U.S. Amateur, a couple of KPMG Women's PGA Championships, a Presidents Cup and 11 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championships.
That's a lot of major golf that doesn't even include the few hundred other regular PGA Tour events I've covered or attended through the years.
One of the biggest events in golf I had never attended until this week was the "major of golf business" -- the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
Though I've run into so many familiar faces this week at the Orange County Convention Center, I have felt a little bit like a rookie.
The common question has been, "So, T.J., how many Merch Shows is this for you?"
People are stunned when I respond, "First time here."
But it's the truth. I don't know why it's taken this long, but I'm here. And what an experience.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job they love. I've been able to follow my passion for practically all of my adult life.
It's not just that I love covering golf -- I love playing it, too.
Those rounds are few and far between now with a young family, but trust me -- I'm a golf-watching, golf-playing, golf-covering, golf-gear-loving junkie.
That last part is what has made this trip to Orlando like a trip to golf heaven.
First there was Tuesday's Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Center.
Are you kidding me?
A massive circle of all the latest and greatest equipment enveloped the driving range. And all that new equipment was there for you to try with company representatives giving you the lowdown on what made their newest offerings so special.
There were drones flying overhead. Cobra had a tee area complete with a D.J. I tried on a Golf Swing Shirt -- a product I've laughed at hundreds of times during late-night informercials, but found it to be remarkably effective (don't knock it until you've tried it!).
There were swing trainers, new golf balls, launch monitors. It was nuts.
And to think, that was only the preview to the main event.
When the doors opened at the Convention Center 8:30 Wednesday morning, just... wow!
Booths taking up five acres of space with every golf gadget, piece of equipment, apparel, shoes, sunglasses you could think of, as well as stuff you never even knew existed -- like a "DropStick" invented by a boy that folds out into a perfect drop area for when you need to take a penalty drop.
It's like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for golfers.
In two days on the Show floor, I logged just over 40,000 steps, according to my Apple Watch. That's roughly 20 miles. And I still didn't come close to seeing everything.
Is the PGA Merchandise as special as a Sunday at the Ryder Cup? Of course not.
But if you love golf and everything about the lifestyle it encompasses, there is nothing in the world that I've seen quite like the PGA Merchandise Show.
Hopefully, it's the first of many trips back here.