Blog #3: Las Vegas Chronicle: Adrenaline and Angels
Lessons From My First PGA Trade Show
I have had a couple of days to decompress after exhibiting my new TIN CUP golf game at the PGA Fashion and Demo Experience 2018 in Las Vegas, and realize that I have learned a couple of things:
1. I can function surprisingly well on no sleep and lots of adrenaline. When my copious trade show booth materials did not show up until late afternoon on the day before the show, cutting my intended setup time from 48 hours to 16, I did not go to sleep that night (after being up the night before until 4am getting the posters, scorecards, and other materials properly printed. I just pretended I was on a military mission. Those guys don’t sleep.)
2. Angels exist. And they seem to be willing to support those of us who are naive and optimistic enough to decide to create and set up a 10’x30’ booth across the country in 3 weeks. While a dozen things could have sunk or diminished my booth, in each fraught moment someone appeared to help. I wish I could remember them all.
It began with my graphic artist working with me until 3 am to meet the deadline for printing the 10’x40’ banner needed for the show, and continued on at the UPS office in Naples, Florida where the counter person waited an extra hour after the 6pm deadline for sending everything via ground (saving me $1200 of air service.)
The night I arrived in Las Vegas, I worked from 12am to 4am with the patient counter person at the 24-hour print shop to get it all the posters and printed materials right (and when we discovered the next night before the show that the tournament entry form did not include the critically important player’s feedback form on the back, another person in the print shop made sure it was ready for pick up 30 minutes before the show.)
The kelly green polo shirts I wanted to embroider with the RUGG Golf logo did not show up from Amazon before I left home, so I ended up racing through the Las Vegas Fashion Mall, happily buying much classier ones at Macy’s. I dropped them off at the embroidery shop the morning of the day before the show, and was so busy later I forgot to call the shop before the 4pm closing time to pick them up, only to get a call from a delivery service an hour later that they were on the way (thank you, Tina!)
After I spent about three hours the night before the show trying to puzzle together 60 pieces of PVC booth frame only to discover I was missing pieces, (which I found in the bottom of the golf bag when I was packing up, ;-/) Chris K., who was managing the show for the PGA, suggested I simply hang my banner on the provided poles. On I go.
Around 11 pm, the PGA VP of Events walks by to gauge my progress, having heard of my travails, and asks me if he can get me anything. “Water,” I croaked, and he returns with two bottles and two packages Fig Newtons that never tasted so good. I am renewed and press on.
At 2am the day of the show, three cleaning ladies helped me stand up and attach the side netting of the booth after two solo attempts came crashing down on me.
And mostly, I was blessed by the two most professional trade show presenters I serendipitously hired through Craigslist, Erin Cosgrove and Rob Levell, who taught me how to manage a trade show booth and made great suggestions to tweak the tournament format, with Rob pulling double duty by doing everything necessary running around Las Vegas before and during the show to make sure things ran smoothly.
It could have been a disaster. Instead, it was a phenomenal success.
First of all, you have to understand that no one outside of my family and friends had ever seen or played TIN CUP. This was the world premier of the game, and not just a demonstration, but the Las Vegas Inaugural TIN CUP WORLD #1 tournament with $1,000 in prize money, to be played by PGA club pros and instructors who are among the best players in the world. What if they don’t like it?
They did. I had incredibly positive feedback. “It’s a really fun game.” “It’s so much like golf.” “I can see my members playing this a lot.” “My members are definitely going to gamble with this game.” “I’d love to set this up at events.” “This is a great way to practice chipping at home.” “How do I get it?” “It’s hard, just like golf.” On an on.
The tournament was a blast. With the prize money on the line, the pros took it very seriously and figured the game out quickly. Hit well, score well. To speed up scoring, we played the TIN CUP 93 game: Nine shots per hole, and only the best 3 count. It proved to be a very difficult challenge, "just like golf."
As a highlight, we had celebrity instructor Aimee Cho (Golf with Aimee) drop in for the tournament and she came in a very respectable 5th place at -24, rattling the inside of the cup 3 or 4 times but just could not get a Double Tin Cup. I can’t wait to see that video on her YouTube channel.
At the end of the first day, the top score was -28 posted by Jeff Hochman, Director of Golf at Sun City Grand in Surprise, Arizona. A score of -24 is an average of all three balls being within the -2 inside Eagle ring on every hole. Anything better than that requires hitting the Tin Cup.
Jeff had several -3 Tin Cup scores, and broke past the rest of the field by scoring a rare -6 Double TIN CUP, one of only three people in the whole tournament to get a shot to go into the target cup (and win a free TIN CUP Pro game.)
And then, towards the middle of the second day, Tommy Berger stepped into the booth.
I was taking a lunch break, so missed the first three holes he played, but got back just in time to be notified that this old guy was on track to win the tournament.
Tommy has a perfect 3-for-3 Tin Cups on the 5 yard front side hole of the White course, and followed that up with three more Tin Cups on the short 3 yard hard-sloping White back side hole for a White course record of 18 under. (He got actually got 4 Tin Cups on the second hole but only 3 counted.) When I arrived, Tommy had just finished what should have been the last hole of the tournament because was not told by my staff which hole to play first on the Black Course. We decided that he should not be penalized for this by having to play the hole again. This was the toughest hole on the course for most players, and he had slaughtered it with the tightest array of nine balls I ever saw for this tabletop hole setup, which included two balls inside the eagle -2 circle and a Tin Cup for a hole score of -7 and total of -25.
Tommy needed -3 on the last hole to tie and -4 to win. This short 5 Yard hole proved to be his toughest, and he ran balls through the green one after the other, just missing the Tin Cup on either side. He was at -2 when it came down to his last shot, and he rang the Tin Cup for a hole score of -5 to win the tournament by 2!
What a great champion and great character! In his prime, Tommy Berger was the long-ball king, one of the very few players who were lifting weights at a time when this was considered bad for the golf swing. “I was long and I was straight, with a club head speed of 126 mph. Nobody could hit it past me. In those days, although the soft balata balls didn’t go nearly as far as the balls do now.” He rabbited around on the satellite tour for a few years, and always worked evenings all the way to retirement so he could work on his golf game. After a life-threatening bicycle accident in 2001 left him with crushed vertebrae, he changed his swing and discovered the secrets to having a great short game. He eventually settled down in Las Vegas, always willing to help friends and fellow players with a quick lesson. “The problem I had back when I was trying to become a tour pro was that I was not that good at chipping. I chip pretty well now,” he said with a twinkle in his eye and the $500 first prize in his pocket.
How did he like playing TIN CUP? “It’s really fun, and I can see how it can be a great way to teach chipping. I think it’s going to be a hit!”
Tommy Berger was the real hit of the tournament and one more angel in the choir that made the whole event a great success for me. I couldn't ask for a better personality to represent the TIN CUP WORLD #1 title. He will be defending his title at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, January 22-25, 2019. Hope to see you all there.
All the best,
Bill Van Arsdale