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GCSAA Orlando exceeds expectations

GCSAA Orlando exceeds expectations

ith the golf economy in the doldrums, many in the golf course industry had low expectations for this year’s GCSAA Conference and Show in Orlando.

And for good reason. Many clubs and national management companies simply couldn’t afford to foot the bill this year for their superintendents. And despite the fact that Orlando is usually a top draw because superintendents can bring their families, left over travel concerns from Sept. 11 kept some from bringing the wife and kids along.

In the months before the show, the GCSAA reported that preregistration numbers were off and started offering payment plans to potential attendees like a discount furniture warehouse trying to unload hide-a-beds during a President’s Day blowout sale. It didn’t inspire confidence.

Readings from my own pre-show barometer suggested that this one might be a dud. As with past shows, my daytime dance card was packed, but my evenings were less so because fewer companies were throwing parties and hosting events.

So when I stepped off the plane in the Sunshine State I, too, didn’t know what to expect. Would the show floor be a ghost town?Would exhibitors start packing up at 11 a.m. on Saturday in frustration and go play golf?

Quite the opposite. On Thursday, perhaps due to some well-timed thunderstorms, the show floor was packed. Registration lines stretched out the door. While attendance numbers were down from Dallas, they still topped 20,000 according to the association, and exhibitors reported that booth traffic and business were exceeding their expectations.

As one exhibitor confided: “The numbers may not be as strong, but the customers are better.”

And not to worry, families made it down. The kids were everywhere on the floor, some hunting down freebies, some collecting product literature and most looking pretty bored.

Just like the rest of the show floor, the Golf Course News booth was hopping. Perhaps it had something to do with the comfortable couches, but whenever I returned to our home base to rest my tired feet, I wound up having five conversations at once. It was great to hear from all of our friends in the industry. Other highlights from Orlando 2002 included:

The Golf Course News Golf Course Builder of the Year Awards were a blast. In years past, everyone who showed up at the Golf Course Builders Association of America’s annual awards dinner already knew who the winners were. This year a veil of secrecy shrouded the winners. The vibe prior to the awards ceremonywas electric as I heard numerous speculative bets spreading across the ballroom. It made for a fun night, and I would have given out 20 awards if I could have. See page 20 for full stories on the winners.

When it came to the parties, less was definitely more. It turned out that it was not only nice not to have to hustle off to three or four fetes in one evening, but that companies were also more creative this year. Pursell Technologies’ late night pancake party at the International House of Polyon was, ingenious, and their corporate ma; .’ gician kept me up nights trying to figure out his baffling card tricks. Syncroflo hosted an outing to a mystery dinner theatre that kept everyone guessing. And the most creative party award must go to Arturo Castro’s Spanish Systems which rented out acouple of rooms and hosted a cigar party complete with an expert Cuban cigar roller. Good times, good times. GCN has added a new section called the “Databank.” The section (see page 31) provides a monthly look at the golf course industry’s leading indicators. In it you will find a stock chart of major industry players, monthly rounds data from Golf Datatech and monthly construction numbers from the National Golf Foundation.

Copyright United Publications, Inc. Mar 2002

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