2002: Business - Scaled-down show a little bit cozier

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reno, Nev.

With the exception of Nike, major golf equipment manufacturers skipped the PGA Fall Expo held Aug. 2-3 at the Reno/Sparks Convention Center.

With the absence of the high-profile companies, the scaled-down Fall Expo had its own unique, cozy, relaxed atmosphere. What’s more, because there weren’t thousands of buyers at any one time, golf professionals and retailers could talk easily and comfortably with manufacturer representatives.

“It feels pretty good to me. I’m impressed with all the apparel,” said Rob McCoy, a PGA professional who traveled from Capri Isles Golf Club in Venice, Fla., to attend the show and enjoy a family getaway at nearby Lake Tahoe.

McCoy and many others expressed the sentiment that perhaps golf does not need two blockbuster shows each year. The gigantic PGA Merchandise Show, held each January in Orlando, Fla., is golf’s primary merchandise showcase. The Fall Expo clearly has become more of a supplemental attraction.

Nike took advantage of its position as big boy on the block, introducing its new collection of apparel, bags, gloves, eyewear and footwear, along with new fairway woods, stainless steel drivers and a sensible and inexpensive junior set. Realizing the importance of drawing youngsters to the game, Nike unveiled a junior golf system designed to immerse neophyte golfers in the game. The system includes a softer EZ-Distance ball that caught the attention of many showgoers.

The stainless steel T-40 fairway woods, designed by well-known Tom Stites, are Nike’s first. The company previously had released titanium drivers, forged irons and forged wedges. Each fairway wood has a 40-gram plug in the sole to help achieve the proper trajectory. Three tour models (13- and 15-degree 3-woods, along with a 4-wood) and five regular fairway woods (3, 4, 5, 7 and 9) are included in the group. The tour models feature slightly smaller heads.

Nike seems to be trying to overhaul its image within the industry. Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf, was characteristically straightforward, but in a kinder, gentler fashion.

“I know there are people who may have perceived us as arrogant,” Wood said, “but I believe, at least for some of those people, that our enthusiasm was misunderstood. We are extremely proud to be part of the golf industry, and we are very, very enthusiastic about it. We have a great team, we love what we’re doing, and we are excited about the future of Nike Golf.”

That future includes a set of progressive forged irons – with a full cavity back in the long irons, partial cavity back in the mid irons and muscle back in the short irons. The set was to be introduced Aug. 7, shortly after the PGA Fall Expo, at a festive gathering at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

What is striking about Nike’s progressive set, also designed by Stites, is that all the irons look traditional from the address position. Although progressive sets have been made by other manufacturers, this effort by Nike may be the most sophisticated yet.

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