Date posted: February 18, 2016

The Fountain of Optimism

I’ve known several golf equipment geeks but none more fanatical than my late golf partner Leroy Posey. Leroy had plastic head covers for his irons back in the ‘70s when it first became fashionable. His always immaculately polished golf shoes never left their little leather bags until they were unpacked in the locker room (or the parking lot of courses much too discriminating about those allowed in their locker room).

Leroy was one helluva trumpeter in several R&B bands back in the day. I penned lyrics and worked the lighting switchboard for one of them, traveling up and down the East Coast on a Silver Eagle touring bus customized to accommodate the 10-piece band. Leroy was also a clothes horse, who matched his hard-collared golf shirts perfectly with his hard-creased Sans-A-Belt slacks.

One of the best clutch putters ever, Leroy would have loved the PGA Merchandise Show in the Orlando Convention Center with its assortment of golf equipment, action wear apparel and swing aids. Pure paradise to the got-to-have-the-latest golf nut.

What Leroy would not have liked, however, is the ever-growing lack of diversity of the show. I know it’s an old saw, but 10 years ago the show had a nice sprinkling of black faces (vendors and floor walkers) to suggest a welcomed shift in the industry’s demographics. Now the only African-American presence at the show is a lone golf writer, a couple of PGA of America officials, a small cadre of PGA professionals, a handful of convention employees in uniform and the occasional hack testing the latest driver guaranteed to deliver on the promise of 20 extra yards off the tee.

No, Leroy would not appreciate the mostly vanilla landscape of the show. And neither do I. But you already know that from my previous rants against the wind.

However, I do appreciate what the show represents: the eternal hope that brand, spanking, new equipment will help the average hack improve their overall score and appear impeccably dressed while doing so. I’m all for that. Still, the business of golf devoid of persons of color remains the white elephant in the massive room.

Unlike Leroy, I’ve never been much of a golf equipment geek, but I must admit the show (my 22nd, I believe) has always intrigued me. The sheer enormity of it is certainly impressive. And the new innovations are mesmerizing to even the most ornery hack.I’ve seen octogenarians jockey for position in line against starry-eyed juniors to test drive the new center-shafted, heel-to-toe-weighted, never-miss, see-more-putts-fall putter; and little old ladies with notepads sizing up the new next-generation, hip-hugging, eye-popping, drop-it-like-it’s-hot skirt and top set in every color imaginable.

The show is replete with enough swing gurus, swing aids and snake oil salesmen (and women) to provide a carnival atmosphere. This year my trek around the convention center floor revealed a bevy of new and interesting products, including a golf club carrier that holds six clubs for the player who prefers walking, a collection of jumbo-sized grips, an electronic cigar for those who enjoy puffing away the pressure of that three-foot par putt with six inches of break, and a Euro Body Shaper supposedly developed by NASA that promises great results in only a 10-minute daily workout.

Although I never attend as a consumer, this year a putting aid caught my attention sparked by the USGA’s ban on anchoring which took effect a few weeks ago effectively shelving the long putter I’ve used to skin opponents the past 15 years. It’s an arm-lock grip for belly putters patterned along a similar concept as the one employed by Matt Kuchar.

I can’t wait to take it to the practice green for a test run. If it works as well as advertised, my golf partners will start quaking in their soft spikes again whenever I stand over a 20-footer. Well, perhaps “quaking’’ is a little strong; more like exhibiting a modicum of concern. If it doesn’t enable me to start dropping putts again from all over the place, at least I can be assured that Leroy would have approved of my having sipped from the fountain of optimism.

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