Day 3 PGA Show Notebook: Some Love for the Little Guys
By Stephanie Wei under Equipment

Artist David O'Keefe's rendition of "Bushwood"

Writer Tony Dear is contributing to WUP at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, because there’s too much golf crap for just one person to cover. Check out his adventures at the convention center on Friday.

Friday at the PGA Show is a good deal quieter than Thursday. Gone is the initial, feverish excitement that fueled everyone’s first trip ’round the Orange County Convention Center, and the reality of having to do some actual work and making sound decisions, whether buying or selling, sets in.

Today I wasn’t interested in the brand-name manufacturers (although I couldn’t resist a visit to the amazing TaylorMade/Adidas/Ashworth facility) so much as the little guys — the guys in the 60-70 square-feet booths whose staff outnumber the people stopping by to take a look at whatever is being sold. Indeed, every time I showed up to ask how the show had gone for them so far, the person(s) manning the booth were either reading a book, texting, or chatting amongst themselves. And yet, each vendor I saw talked about how pleasantly surprised they had been with the number of orders taken.

Bill Miller, west region sales associate for Vectra Fitness, looked like he had had a fairly uneventful show, but showed me his order book that detailed several more sales than he had expected to make. Tom Gotuzzo, a sales and marketing director at Prodigy Putter which launched last year, told me how pleased he had been with the company’s first visit to Orlando and spoke of international orders – Ireland, Japan, South America – that were going to take the product global earlier than he had projected. And Steven Johnson, president of Sol Sunguard, wiped his pharmaceutical-grade sunscreen in and around his eyelid and on his nicely laundered shirt to show me how his product caused no eye-sting and didn’t stain clothes, before saying how much busier than anticipated he had been.

Steve Johnson demonstrates his pharmaceutical-grade sunscreen

Sometimes you get to the point at the PGA Show when you’d just like to hear one vendor, just one,  say something like “Actually, we’re not doing a lot this year, just sort of consolidating, nothing new planned.” But that doesn’t cut it anymore, obviously, and you’ll never hear it. It’s just really impressive how upbeat even the minnows are. Capitalism at its innovative, hopeful, ever-positive best.

At about 1pm, I came across what for me was the product of the Show (okay, the R11 got most of the ink/attention/plaudits, but this was unexpected and altogether more special). Tucked away in Booth 2978 was a Florida-based artist by the name of David O’Keefe who had been commissioned by ball-washer manufacturer Par Aide to paint a caricature of the Caddyshack cast. O’Keefe took eight months creating “Bushwood,” an absolutely brilliant work of art with Bill Murray, Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield taking center stage.

A constant procession of people would stand and admire the painting for a few minutes before taking a look at O’Keefe’s other work ,which included a fantastic rendition of The Godfather cast, the Beatles during their more psychedelic phase, and several busts – Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and a stunningly accurate, not to say funny, Bill Murray among them.

O’Keefe, who worked as an editorial illustrator for 25 years, was sitting in his booth working on a caricature of Dirty Harry when I asked him where he had studied art. “I didn’t,” he said. What about influences? “Only one, Rubens,” he said.

O’Keefe’s managing partner, Wayne Curtiss, told me “Bushwood” had attracted a great deal of interest among members of local country clubs. “We’ll go show the painting at clubs and take a lot of orders,” he said. “We took about 80 at ChampionsGate, and probably 50 at TPC Sawgrass.”

Framed and unframed prints of “Bushwood,” priced at $295 and $150 respectively, were flying out the booth like hotcakes (do hotcakes fly out of booths?). And the T-Shirts were going for $20.

Take a look at this; a croissant sandwich, packet of chips, and bottle of Pepsi. Guess how much. $14.25!!! Capitalism at its fleecing captive audiences worst. Yep, the PGA Show has been fun, but now I think it’s time to go home. I can’t afford to eat here anymore.