ORLANDO — Some final thoughts while resting my sore back and feet after a week of cruising the floor at the PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.
It comes as no surprise to anybody that the economy is far and away the story of 2009 and it wasn’t the media fuelling all the speculation among those in attendance at the show.
There was plenty of unsubstantiated rumours of golf courses being sold, golf companies on the auction block and people being relieved of their duties. If it’s true that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, then the game is in for a serious burn.
Of course, news last week that Ginn Resorts is ending all golf sponsorships, including the Ginn Open on the LPGA Tour, got tongues wagging about the economy. Unless something happens quickly, the LPGA Tour will offer just 30 events with $7.5-million less in purse money this year compared to 2008.
Ginn also dropped its sponsorship of former CN Canadian Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr.
The sudden nature of the Ginn announcement fuels concern that a struggling company can, at any time, change its commitment to an event, despite the reassurances of various tours to the contrary. The same can certainly happen to events at levels below the PGA, Champions and LPGA Tours.
There were considerably less Canadian representatives in various booths around the show floor compared to other years. The ones who did show were usually there for meetings and other events, but many were out of O-Town by the end of the first day of the show.
The traffic in and around the booths isn’t what it used to be either, even on the first day of the show when you could count on gridlock before making it to a parking spot in previous years. In 2009, Steve Woods, my colleague at GNN, and I found parking immediately.
Having said all that, my own opinion hasn’t changed since Thursday, when I stated the golf industry, at least at this point, is taking a constructive approach to all the bad news. Nobody is in denial about the state of affairs, but nobody is jumping into the water in these parts to swim with the gators either.
The show certainly did its part to take the edge off through seminars and conferences designed to deal with the economy instead of fearing it.
As one Canadian said to me, if even 10 per cent of folks in our country are out of work, and that’s a high number, that means 90 per cent are still employed, so all is not lost.
Those are words of wisdom and perhaps a good motto to take into what is shaping up as a challenging season ahead with, hopefully, some optimism in sight as the year progresses.
SHOW NOTES: Allan Fletcher will remain as a consultant with Ashworth after the purchase of that iconic apparel brand by TaylorMade-adidas Golf recently. The Fletcher Leisure Group still has the contract to distribute Ashworth products in Canada … Media colleague Jane Nahirny got a sweet piece of nostalgia last Thursday when her name was drawn to receive an original Ping 1A putter, the one that made the famous “ping” sound that led to the name of the company that celebrated its 50th anniversary at this year’s show.