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Len Ziehm On Golf

Newest golf gear will be unveiled at PGA Merchandise Show

ORLANDO, FL. — The weather in most parts of the country may not suggest that the golf season is imminent, but it’s in full swing at the Orange County Convention Center here. For the golf industry this is the start of show-time.

The 63rd annual PGA Merchandise Show, which starts on Tuesday (JAN 26) with a Demo Day at the massive Orange County National Golf Center, traditionally draws 40,000 industry professionals and 74 countries will be represented in the contingent of visitors.

This week’s event is not open to the public but after it concludes on Friday there will be a series of smaller shows across the country. Chicago golfers can see what’s new in the game at the Tinley Park Golf Show from Feb. 12-14 and the Chicago Golf Show at the Rosemont Convention Center from Feb. 26-28.

While the Orlando show has always been a big deal, this time is special. It marks the start of the PGA of America’s centennial celebration. The PGA, which now has 28,000 members and is the largest working sports organization in the world, was formed in 1916 and one of its original seven sections was the Middle States, which included Illinois club professionals. The Middle States was changed to the Illinois Section as part of a restructuring in 1921.

This year’s PGA Merchandise Show has over 1,000 companies and brands exhibiting their new products of equipment, technology and training aids. They include Chicago area equipment manufacturers Wilson and Tour Edge. First viewing of the new gear comes Tuesday at the 42-acre Orange County National Golf Center, which has a circular practice and over 100 hitting bays.

Then the show moves inside for three days. While the new club models usually draw the most attention, other new products always draw onlookers, too. Two sure to get attention this week are ClubHub, the first ever portable golf swing analysis and shot-tracking system, and Johnny Miller’s Motion Fit Glove.

ClubHub was developed by Kinetek Sports and its $500 product can provide players with instant feedback both on the practice range and on the course, as it delivers analytical information to a smart phone app.

Miller, the one-time PGA Tour star turned broadcaster, announced recently that he has become a part-owner and endorsee for Zero Friction’s new line of compression-fit gloves. They come in but one size, but reportedly fit the hands of all golfers.

Here and there

Former world No. 1 Luke Donald, after revealing he considered quitting the PGA Tour during a difficult 2015 season, had a good start in 2016. The former Northwestern star posted a tie for 28th at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

The Western Golf Assn. has a new chairman, and the first to come from Michigan since 1997. David Robinson, of Troy, Mich., was selected to succeed Dennis O’Keefe, who lives in Winnetka.

With the WGA’s BMW Championship shifting to Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in September, the only PGA Tour stop in Illinois this year will be the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities – and iit’ll be played on new dates, Aug. 11-14, opposite the revived golf competition at the Olympic Games in Brazil.

The PGA Tour’s satellite Web.com Tour announced that it will have a tournament in the Chicago area for the first time since 2007 when Ivanhoe hosts the $600,000 Rust-Oleum Championship from June 6-12. The circuit has also since added a second Illinois stop, the Lincoln Land Charity Classic at Panther Creek in Springfield from July 11-17 – the dates usually held by the John Deere Classic.