I would first like to introduce myself and provide everyone with some personal background information.  My name is Andy Ziegler and I will be working on developing and growing the golf portion of Access Athletes.  I will also be contributing this golf specific blog to the site periodically to update my situation and add a golf news-related entity and presence on the site. 


Growing up the son of a PGA Professional, I was never really pushed toward the game of golf. It basically just happened to come about as a part of my own personal goals and as a result of a few broken bones in other sports.  I got my start in the game of golf and the golf business competing on the course in high school matches and LEJGA events and tournaments (Lake Erie Junior Golf Association, www.lejga.org), while exploring my options following a string of football-related injuries.


During my college years as a sport management major at Bowling Green State University, I completed an internship with the local LPGA event (Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, www.jfocc.com), and during that time, I made initial contact with individuals at the PGA of America Headquarters.  As a result of these contacts, I was selected after a series of interviews to do operations work during two three-month stints with the PGA of America at the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup (www.pga.com) last summer.


Most recently, I was selected out of a large pool of applicants, after a lengthy interview process, to represent the South Florida PGA Section as Assistant Tournament Director for the 2009 season.  The SFPGA offices (South Florida PGA, www.sflorida.pga.com) are located at PGA of America National Headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, so it should be an excellent opportunity for me to continue my career and networking in the industry.


My final interview with the SFPGA took place at the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.  The show and my experiences while attending will be the subject of this blog, my first blog for Access Athletes.  The 56th Annual PGA Merchandise Show is the largest of its kind in the golf industry incorporating over 1,100 exhibitors and hosting nearly 45,000 attendees in the West Wing of Orlando’s vast convention hall.  It allows attendees the opportunity to view the newest and greatest that the golf business has to offer for 2009 and beyond.  In attendance among a mass of PGA Professionals and golf industry professionals, PGA of America National Officers, Film Industry Celebrities, and PGA/LPGA Tour Professionals (Boo Weekley, Will MacKenzie, Ian Poulter, Tom Watson, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, etc.) could be seen walking the show floor.


Among the new and interesting products that I was able to experience, some stood out more than others.  I would have to say that products from CleatSkins (www.cleatskins.com), SoftSpikes/Pride Golf Tees (www.softspikes.com/www.pridegolftee.com), and Boo Weekley by Firethorn Tour (www.booweekley.com) were most intriguing to me. 


Cleatskins has developed a product dubbed GolfSkins, which were designed to be worn as a stylish rubber that can be stretched to go over a golf shoe to protect and preserve soft spikes to enable the avid golfer or business person to wear their golf shoes off the golf course.  SoftSpikes/Pride Golf Tees debuted several new items including the new Black Widow Tour soft spike, divot tools, golf ball alignment marking tools and many different golf tee styles.  Needless to say tour player Boo Weekley’s new clothing line by Firethorn Tour incorporates its fair share of Mossy Oak camouflage, and other unique designs to attire one of the PGA Tour’s most interesting and outside the box professionals.


An indoor equipment testing facility presented the opportunity to swing some of the newest clubs the industry's largest manufactures have to offer.  Callaway’s Diablo driver, Nike’s Dymo driver, Cleveland’s HiBore Monster XLS driver and an entire new line from Titleist were on display with accessible club representatives available for questions and explanations.  Titleist also debuted the newest editions to the family of the #1 ball in golf with the Pro V1 and Pro V1x 2009.  All of these products are either out now or will be released shortly.  TaylorMade’s supposed revolutionary and industry changing R9 driver and club line will be available March 20, 2009.  Lastly, TaylorMade/Adidas Golf will be releasing a new golf shoe and apparel line mid-February.


Pictures and further explanations and information are available for all of these products among others upon request.  Future blog topics will include, but are not limited to interviews with golf industry and tour professionals, my experiences onsite at the 90th PGA Championship and 37th Ryder Cup Matches, successful golf industry networking practices, etc.  Comments, questions and suggestions concerning my blog are always appreciated and welcomed.  Please do not hesitate to contact me through my profile on Access Athletes (www.accessathletes.com) or by sending me an e-mail at Z@accessathletes.com.


Special thanks to Rick Reilly (pictured with me) and Matt Allinson for inspiring this blog and getting me involved in the development and growth of Access Athletes.