In 1954, the Professional Golf Association held its first-ever PGA Merchandise Show in a parking lot in Dunedin, Florida, with only a handful of participants. Today, more than 40,000 individuals crowd the West Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center each January in hopes to find new business, cover the newest trends or sell the newest golf merchandise on the market.

Kirk Fallgatter is one of them. 

For one week at the end of January, he set up shop at Booth 5557, representing Scales Gear as a sales associate. Scales Gear is one of the dozens of first time exhibitors at the show in 2023. Though some have come from across the world, Scales was fortunate enough to just have a two-hour drive up FL-91 to showcase their apparel.

The company was founded in 2008, focusing on high-performance sea and adventure gear. After country clubs took interest in the colorful, sea-themed prints, Scales took a leap into the golf apparel industry.

Their creative, seaside approach to design is what Fallgatter says separates the Scales brand from others.

“It’s the theme,” he said.“I guess you could call it aspirational. Everyone likes to be around the ocean, the water and be on vacation. Everyone likes to be on vacation and have fun in the sun.”

There was plenty of sun on the 80-degree Wednesday, the show’s first full day. There were also plenty of people to showcase the brand to, which is the exact reason Scales made the trip North.

“What is it, 40,000 participants, attendees?” Fallgatter said. “It’s just a great opportunity to get some exposure for the brand. So yeah, that’s really what it’s about.”

The Offshore Collection brings together themes like multicolored Frigate Camo and tropical designs into pants, polos, t-shirts, button downs and more. There’s more to see at the booth, like the Pro Performance™ wear, which is UPF 50+ rated and is made of recycled water bottles, and women’s skirts, polos and more, all in bright and tropical color schemes.

Photo of Scales Apparel booth courtesy of Thomas Ehlers

“Some of the golf clubs liked the prints, the very fun prints,” Fallgatter said. “They started to call, saying ‘We want to carry your line.’ So we introduced the Offshore Country Club Collection, specifically for golf. It’s an ocean theme, sun protection kind of theme.”

There’s even pickleball paddles and golf bags with their designs. 

Blake Dubinksi, co-owner of GenTeal Apparel, was looking for more than just exposure in his company’s first trip to the show.

“We’ve got into 25 clubs without coming (to the show), and had a lot of success within those clubs,” Dubinksi said. “We thought, ‘OK, we’ve dipped our toes into golf, it feels good.’ I think we have a good grasp on how to handle it. So we went all out and came here.”

GenTeal opened its doors in 2016, with its brand geared toward outdoor enthusiasts with an “after-the-hunt style.” What started as a local brand in Oxford, Mississippi, has grown to sell in country clubs and independent retailers across the country. Part of the company’s success growth came from being able to fulfill orders.

“We picked up some collegiate licenses, bought some embroidery machines and after COVID, there were some brands that couldn’t be delivered to golf shops,” he said. “We had inventory, we had in-house embroidery, and it was just a good segway into golf. We started getting a lot of calls from clubs, and our golf business has just grown from there.”

GenTeal offers four collections: Classic, Collegiate, Lodge and Club, the one that golf shops enjoyed so much. The company sells an assortment of items, like polos, sport shirts and tshirts to quarter-zips, coats and vests. Pants, shorts and performance swimwear fill out the clothing lines, along with accessories like belts, wallets and hats. Designs aren’t flashy, but are built around comfort and quality materials.

Dubinski’s goal heading into the show was to double the number of country clubs they sell to, and GenTeal had reached half of that number halfway through the first full day. He’d also like to set his company up for future interactions with the PGA.

“It’s really more about the connections,” Dubinski said. “Meeting people and learning more about the show, learning more about PGA sectionals and how to get involved, things like that.”

In the afternoon, folks get a little restless at the show. It’s been a full day of network, pitching and learning, and by that time some exhibitors just need a drink.

Chris Casperson has been pouring them out all day.

Not really, but sort of.

Casperson is at his first show to show off his new product, The Original Great Whiskey Challenge Kit. A couple videos on YouTube led him to expand his palette, develop a product and start his business.

Photo of The Original Great Whiskey Challenge Kit courtesy of Thomas Ehlers

“Up until three years ago, my whiskey tasting experience was Old Fashioneds and Manhattans,” he said. “I saw a couple of guys online doing whiskey tastings and said ‘that’s kind of cool, maybe I could experiment with that.’ It just went from there.”

Those experiments consisted of his wife pouring blind taste tests … that is, until she lost interest. He perfected the process and product, transforming them into game kits, each with quality glasses. Some are solo challenges, others for multiple people. Points are scored for correct guesses, and kits can be expanded to include more diverse tastings or cigar additions.

“Nobody else has a blind whisky tasting kit on the market,” Casperson said. “Nobody else did this where you get the whole Kentucky experience and the blind aspect added to it.”

He’s just six months into business, but he’s learning a lot at his first show. Conversations with a sport management professional have made him aware that whiskey is many professional golfers’ best friends, and he’s looking to grow the company.

“We’re rookies doing it,” Casperson said. “I’ve done shows before and I’ve done conventions, but never this. We launched this in August. As of August 1, we had nothing, now we’ve got at least this.”

There are more voices from this year’s PGA Merchandise Show. Learn about some of the vendors with a cause in Thomaspiece from the 2023 event.

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Thomas Ehlers is a copywriter and content creator with Trestle Collective. As a University of Georgia journalism alum, he loves the Bulldogs and telling stories.