2003: Equipping golf’s future

If the PGA Merchandise Show, the 49th edition of which kicked off Jan. 23 in Orlando, is the barometer of the golf industry, then the game has problems. The event will showcase 15 percent fewer exhibitors than a year ago, including notable absentees Acushnet (which makes the Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra brands), Ping and Adams Golf. Five years ago, there was a waiting list for exhibit space.

Some are banking that the game is simply experiencing a trough in what historically has been a cyclical industry.

Others believe the current slump is cause for alarm. The popularity of Tiger Woods has generated great television ratings, but little else. There has been no corresponding spike in participation, largely because the game remains too time-consuming, too expensive and doesn’t embrace beginners.

A lethargic PGA Merchandise Show would be a stark reminder of the challenges that lie ahead for Golf 20/20, the industrywide initiative to “grow the game.” More important, it would serve to remind those who represent the equipment manufacturing part of the equation that their financial participation in the 20/20 initiative – along with that of course owner/operators, the golf media and the game’s major associations – is crucial to its success.

At the last Golf 20/20 summit in November, it was determined that “Link Up To Golf” (a pilot program designed to introduce adults to the game) and efforts to make golf part of elementary and high school physical education programs would be the primary beneficiaries of a Golf 20/20 superfund.

How that money will be raised is still under discussion, although the concept of a National Golf Day fund-raiser, executed by the Golf 20/20 coalition rather than the PGA of America alone, was among the candidates.

Whatever the funding mechanism, the equipment segment needs to contribute its fair share. Otherwise, the coalition will crumble and golf’s barometric pressure – as measured at the PGA Show – will continue to fall.

Goosie: An unsung hero

During the 1970s and ’80s, if you were an aspiring PGA Tour player looking to hone your game, you probably spent some time on the Space Coast Tour. Founded by J.C. Goosie, who died Jan. 16 at age 73 (see obituary, p8), the Space Coast Tour was arguably the premier proving ground for young professionals.

Goosie’s Space Coast Tour was the place to play in the days before 1990, when the PGA Tour introduced its developmental Ben Hogan Tour (which has evolved as the Nike Tour, Buy.com Tour and Nationwide Tour). His tournaments were well organized and the purses reliable. Goosie brought credibility to the sometimes dicey world of mini-tours.

Goosie was one of golf’s unsung heroes. He saw a void in the game and filled it. During the 25 years the Space Coast Tour was in operation, hundreds of players took their first shots at golf stardom.

Some succeeded. Some failed. But thanks to J.C. Goosie, they were given an opportunity to pursue their dreams.

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