Game Changers

Fashion Forward: Exploring the 2021 Merchandiser of the Year's Pro Shop

By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Published on

In our second Fashion Forward installment on golf apparel in 2022, we are fortunate to have the expertise of Brian Tolnar, the 2021 PGA of America Merchandiser of the Year for Public Facilities. Tolnar is a multi-year PGA Section Merchandiser of the Year and the 2013 Western New York PGA Golf Professional of the Year. His facility, Mill Creek Golf Course, is comprised of two 18-hole championship layouts that were designed by Donald Ross and opened to the public in 1928. Tolnar is the PGA Director of Golf, serving a price-conscious clientele since 2015. 
Tolnar likes Ouray Sportswear and Straight Down for moderately priced and higher price point options, respectively, for this fall. He says that hoodies and other athletic, yet traditionally non-golf pieces, are customized for his shop. In fact, all of the apparel in the Mill Creek Golf Course shop is customized with its logo. “With an expansive big box competitor within walking distance from our front door, putting our logo on everything we do is our point of difference,” Tolnar explains. The award-winning golf merchandiser, who has 20 years experience at private facilities, says he and his team give their municipal course a country club feel, and that goes for the retail operation, as well.
In women’s golf apparel, Belyn Key, a relatively newer line, has been a winner for many golf shops this fall, as has Lucky in Love, a 12-year-old brand out of Miami. Tolnar says that women’s wear with sun protection is huge, and many lines are now touting this feature as much as they are the fashion-forward styles, colors and fits. In addition to traditional sleeveless and short sleeve golf and tennis wear, their lines offer lightweight, long sleeve pieces with SPF 50 or greater, for protection from the sun’s rays. 
A line that might be more familiar to many readers, Bermuda Sands, has also done extremely well for both men and women in the Canfield, Ohio-golf shop. “It’s done well and it has a story,” Tolnar says. Using recycled plastics, they use sustainable fibers as a base in their polyester polos. This sustainability story reflects the company’s commitment to protecting the environment, and because Mill Creek is part of the local MetroParks system, the eco-friendly message is one they’re proud to convey. 
“Bermuda Sands makes great, quality products - a lot of great fashion pieces,” Tolnar says. “Everything is very unique when it comes to their color stories and patterns.” He added that his clientele prefers the fancy shirts over solids, with virtually 95 percent of his men’s and women’s polo sales reflecting this - unique patterns, all with their logo on them. 
Callaway’s Perry Ellis collection, Antigua and ahead have all performed well, the latter being popular among the many high school and collegiate teams hosted at Mill Creek Golf Course - higher quality and less expensive than the campus bookstore.
 Belts as a fashion statement are now more popular in the golf shop than ever. Tolnar brings in logoed belts from C4, a company he discovered in a small corner at the PGA Show a few years ago, and puts the local university’s logo on them, making them a hit when parents are in town. He says the local high schools are following suit. What started as a staff uniform accessory has become over 800 belts sold in a short period of time.    
Tolnar sees even more bold colors in apparel coming in 2023. The non-golf lines will continue to grow. “You want to be able to sell merchandise that goes beyond the traditional golf pieces,” he stated. He says to look for long sleeve options like hoodies and mocks, popular now and showing no signs of slowing down. Men’s logoed sweatpants and non-golf shoes (tennis and dress) are also coming to Mill Creek in 2023. He says these are things that wouldn’t have sold there a decade ago.  
Along those lines, leggings for women from Footjoy and adidas are big, as are shorts, skirts, skorts and dresses. He also recently brought in some workout wear for the fitness-minded that is doing well. Also, with tee shirts very popular, Tolnar is placing his order with Ouray for the tee shirt/hat combo you might have seen before. If you haven’t been to your local golf shop in awhile, go check it out. You might be surprised at what you see!