In this quick piece, I’m going to take a look back at some of the highlights from the past year in golf. While these might include some TOUR news, most of it as I start writing, will be based on my experiences. Truth be told in the interest of full disclosure, I never ever know how my articles will turn out when I start writing. I just write and let the chips fall as they may.
Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio – Typically, my year really starts in January when I attend the annual PGA Merchandise Show in January. 2020 was no exception. But there was a bonus in 2020. I received my first set of media credentials for a TOUR event. The Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio played its inaugural event at the lovely Boca Rio Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida. After a long day of travel and a longer night of getting my rental car I drove through the night to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and to cover a practice round for the event. The field was stout and the experience was great. I look forward to, one day, covering it again.
The 2020 PGA Show – During the week, I logged a lot of kilometers on my legs and feet to the tune of over 60 km. Walking the grounds at Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Resort and Lodge and the floor at the Orange County National Convention Centre is no small task. If you’ve been there, you understand. If you haven’t and you watch the content on the Golf Channel you really have no idea how big it really is. Ironically, it’s thinned out a little bit since I started to attend. I made a ton of contacts and the networking has led to more content and consequent page views. 2021, will be more of the same, although it will have a significantly different feel.
2020 Teezy Awards – Tour Edge Golf and their Exotics EXS 220 product range ran away with many of the awards. As I recollect, they medalled in every category but players irons and wedges. They brought those two categories out later in 2020 and I never made swings with them (Exotics EXS Pro). Because of their success, when the time comes for the next iteration of the Teezy Awards (whenever that is) it almost makes me need to re-evaluate my parameters. Their price point always garners them top marks and seems to catapault them ahead of everybody. Then again, when you have have a premium product without a premium price tag, how do you ignore it?
I Met Legends – I met a lot of great people at the PGA Show and while I was down in Florida back in January. I met golf legends Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer (how fun was he to watch at the 2020 Masters?), Jan Stephenson (I appeared on her podcast too “Jan Stephenson Shout”) and someone who I’ve idolized since I was a kid. NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr. I even wore #31 because he did and I also caught with my right hand like he did. When I played hockey, I was a goalie. I switched positions when our goalie fell ill and volunteered as a 7 year old to go in net. Admittedly, I was small and I wasn’t too crazy about going into the corners.
Japanese Domestic Products (JDM) – This is an area of golf equipment that I’m hoping to cover a little bit more in 2021. The average golfer doesn’t realize how good that this equipment is. In the Asian market it’s different and no surprise. But, here in North America the knowledge and exposure is limited. Factor in the price point for some of the manufacturers and the notoriety becomes more of an issue in North America. While there are mainstream manufacturers like XXIO, Srixon, Mizuno, Miura, Honma and Yonex to name a few, there are others. Brands like Fourteen Golf and ONOFF (and others) that the golfing public has little to no knowledge about. The only thing that kept the ONOFF AKA RD5900 driver off of the podium, was the price.
SUB 70 Golf and Tour Edge Golf – While Tour Edge Golf has already been mentioned, I figured that this was the time to mention SUB 70 Golf as well. Tour Edge Golf has proven that you can produce premium golf equipment without a premium price tag. More of the same can be said of Sycamore, Il based SUB 70 Golf. Their direct to consumer (DTC) business model aids in keeping their price tag down. In an era in golf when we’re looking at growing costs for the consumer across the board, SUB 70 Golf gets it right. A set of irons like the astounding 699 Pro irons (which would have won a Gold Teezy Award if there was a year-end version and a Gold if they were at Demo Day in the Player’s/Player’s Distance Category) you can purchase for $445 USD (5-PW). Their products are so affordable and are also premium products. Then, if you factor in the best customer service (in my opinion) in the industry, Jason Hiland’s company was a highlight of 2020. SUB 70 will have staying power and based on sneak peeks of their products for 2021. They look to be “on fire”. I hope that they stay true to who they are and don’t get too big for their britches.
Sophia Popov – How great of a story was Sophia Popov winning the AIG Women’s Open? A proverbial “rags to riches Cinderella story”. The unlikely Women’s Open Champion held only Symetra Tour status prior to the victory. A life-altering win for the native of Germany. But, this story also features a lowlight or two as well. Mostly because, the victory did not give her LPGA TOUR status (it really should have) and she also did not qualify for the year end CME Group Tour Championship. Not even on a sponsor’s exemption. Natalie Gulbis received one. The policy on the LPGA TOUR needs to be re-evaluated. As far as I’m concerned, these were “black eye” moments for that tour.
Rounds Played – Not from a quantity standpoint, but from a quality point of view. I played golf on some courses that I had not previously played until this season. Ironically enough, all of these courses were in my area and no more than 30 minutes away. Each round, consequently resulted in articles/reviews which has led me to focus a little bit more on golf course reviews. I played rounds at Peninsula Lakes Golf Club (“Niagara’s Hidden Gem” a title that I wouldn’t give them albeit their conditions are fantastic), Bridgewater Country Club (in my eyes, “Niagara’s Hidden Gem”), Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club (North America’s Oldest Golf Course), and last but certainly not least, Cherry Hill Club. The latter was in thanks to a golf day set-up by the Golf Journalists Association of Canada (GJAC) and that round was worth the 48 year wait. It was magical. Other than a U.S. Open Local Qualifier in Mendon, NY (Mendon Country Club) a few years ago, this was the first private golf course that I’ve played. Cherry Hill Club was designed by Walter J. Travis and it also hosted the 1972 Canadian Open. I actually don’t know how many rounds of golf that I played in 2020. But the quality of golf courses that I played was quite good.
I’m looking forward to seeing what highlights emerge in 2021.
Until The Next Tee!!