Merchandise Show kicked off in Orlando this week and marked the start of the PGA of America’s yearlong Centennial Celebration. About ten years ago the PGA added an outdoor “Demo Day” on Tuesday of the show week. It’s held at Orange County National Golf Club in Winter Garden www.ocngolf.com which has the largest driving range in the world. Even Bubba Watson can’t hit a drive from one side of the 360* range to the other.
The PGA did a really cool ceremonial tee shot, or shots, by having a PGA professional and a junior golfer from each of the 41 sections around the country hit the shots. The demo day is also a great place to try equipment from all the major manufacturers and all the latest and greatest training aids. If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip.
The indoor show at the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive in Orlando is massive. But perhaps the best part is catching up with friends or just saying hi as you pass by. At the Callaway booth which is so big it occupies two sides of an aisle, I was able to spend a half hour chatting with Roger Cleveland about wedges. Where else can you do that? Lydia Ko came through and shook hands and posed for pictures. Very special.
Callaway definitely takes the award for “Best in Show” for their amazing booth and of course all their new equipment. Check it out here www.callawaygolf.com
This past Sunday, January 17th, marked the 100th anniversary of a luncheon organized by Rodman Wanamaker that led to the formation of The PGA of America. Wanamaker, a department store magnate, believed golf professionals might boost equipment sales if they formed an association and invited a number of golf professionals and leading amateurs to gather for lunch at the Taplow Club in the Martinique Hotel in New York City.
Later that year on April 10th The PGA of America was founded in New York City with 35 charter members. During that meeting, Wanamaker hinted that the newly formed organization needed an annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund.
The first PGA Championship was play later that year in October at Siwanoy CC in Bronxville, NY. The inaugural champion was Jim Barnes who also won the next PGA played in 1919. The championship was not played in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. “Long Jim” as Barnes was known also won a US Open and a British Open. His last professional win was the New Jersey State Open in 1939 when he was working at Essex County Country Club.
Thve PGA Championship returns later this year in July to Baltusrol where Phil Mickelson won in 2005.