PGA Merch Day 2: True footwear, Quagmire rocks Arnie, Cobra comes up orange

Like the first day of the merch show, I spent day two jammed in meetings for the new Pro:Files magazine, the soon-to-be-released publication of the PGA of Canada. By the time I was done with the second day, I’d met with two dozen vendors, dropped in to say hello to some industry folks and attended Canada Night, hosted by Fletcher Golf and put on by the PGA.   I finally caught my breath the following morning and drove to Jupiter to play golf with my friend, fellow golf writer Lorne Rubenstein (more on that tomorrow).

Reflecting on the golf show now, a couple of days removed, it seems like a massive undertaking, and I can’t imagine how a new company can expect to avoid getting lost amongst the gigantic booths. Take TaylorMade, for example, which had a booth that reminded me of a night club. You walked through a neon tunnel and a woman scanned you badge before you gained entrance to a massive room full of green and red lighting. People pounded the company’s new driver — the infamously named Rocketballz — and I saw at least one guy basically hit one off the top of the new driver. I guess TM isn’t worried about sky marks. It was at the TM booth that I got a chance to speak with Dave Stockton, who contends most teachers don’t know enough about putting to show students the proper way of tackling the flat stick. He added that this issue is compounded when a belly or long putter is added to the situation.

One of the booths I stopped by was Quagmire, the Toronto-based company that has taken on relaunching the Arnold Palmer line of clothing. At the booth I spoke with Mrs. Saunders, Palmer’s daughter and mother of tour pro Sam Saunders. She was thrilled with the work that Bobby and Geoff — the brains behind the new line and the founders of Quagmire — had developed. Sears in Canada holds the rights to the line through 2012, and that was going to limit where the new line could be sold here this year. Turns out that’s no longer the case, and you’ll see the clothes hitting shops by around June.

That morning I met with Tom Preece, vice-president of R&D for Cobra, which had a booth all decked out in orange. Interesting to see a company change its branding to reflect the signing of its main player — Rickie Fowler. We talked about the company’s new products, a lot of which are based around Fowler. Fowler is hitting the company’s AMP driver, but like a lot of pros, he’s playing a set of irons that was designed specifically for him and the public can’t buy. “I’d say Rickie is just about the only one who can hit them,” joked Preece.

True Linkswear -- smart and comfortable

One of my final meetings was with Rob Rigg, the Canadian behind True Linkswear shoes. Rigg, a former Nike exec, formed the company after being unhappy with the kind of shoes his former employer was creating. A proponent of walking while playing golf, Rigg formed a website called “The Walking Golfer,” that rates courses that are easy to stroll.  He then created  True Linkswear shoes, taking advantage of the barefoot shoe trend. That means the shoes are simple — the lower-end models, which cost around $99, look like sneakers. The higher-end models look more like a casual dress shoe. Rigg, a passionate fan of great golf courses like Bandon Dunes and Ballyneal, is an interesting entrepreneur and I had a greatly enjoyed swapping stories of great golf courses. He’s really keen on the new Cabot Links, the course in Nova Scotia (which anyone who reads this blog is aware of) that opens officially at the end of June and is walking only.

I took his shoes out of the box on Sunday to play a course called Dye Preserve near Jupiter. I’m a grinder — and my spikes usually cause a mess on any range where I’ve hit balls for any length of time. I was skeptical that True Linkswear’s shoes, which don’t have removable spikes, would hold up. Not only did they work out wonderfully, offering all the stability I needed, but they are super comfortable — maybe the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn on the golf course. Doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of my FootJoy Icons, but I’ll my True Linkswear shoes will be seeing a lot of the fairway this summer.

With that I wandered off to Canada Night, running into a wide variety of Canadian industry people (pros, managers, equipment reps, etc.), and giving me some time to digest the day. Many asked me what I made of my first Merch Show, and I’d say it was exceptionally useful. I kind of wondered how I’d avoided coming for a decade. My only disappointment was not getting to simply wander the show floor more, and stumble across companies I’m not familiar with. Next year, I guess.

Tomorrow: Touring Tiger’s new home course.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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