Marc Simon, a member of the PGA Show management team since 1998, is the Event Vice President, overseeing the PGA Merchandise Show, held annually in Orlando in January, and PGA Fashion & Demo Experience in Las Vegas in August. Simon has been involved in the golf industry nearly his entire life. As a player, Simon progressed from top regional amateur to standout player on the Hamilton College golf team, earning Academic All-America Honors and ultimately election to the Town of Kirkland (NY) Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
The Simon Story —
I was lucky to have my Dad introduce my brother and me to golf at a very young age. We also lived extremely close to the Hamilton College Golf Course in Upstate NY, and with my Dad being a professor and golf coach at Hamilton, we had free access to the course at any time. From a very young age Dad kept it fun and helped us to improve along the way. To make sure we always had a positive outlook, he would have us play the par 5’s as par 10’s, the par 4’s as par 9’s and the par 3’s as par 7’s.
Before long we were shooting “under par” and “breaking the course record”. Those fun experiences and the time with him and my brother ignited my love for the game. I proceeded to play in high school, college and work at a golf course simultaneously during the summers of those years. After college, it was not long after that I found myself working in the golf industry starting as a sales executive for the PGA Shows back in 1999.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
My family and my love for the game are my driving passion each day. I wake up focused on being positive and thinking about how I can make the most of that particular day, no matter how daunting the day ahead may be.
Kick off your Show week with PGA Show Demo Day! Test the latest products in real life conditions from the largest collection of golf brands on Tuesday, January 21 at the Orange County National Golf Center. pic.twitter.com/oXNpiiax3a— PGA Golf Shows (@PGAShow) December 30, 2019
You’re the point person for the longest running and largest merchandise show connected to the golf industry. What makes the show relevant — both to exhibitors and those attending?
The more we become a digital society, the more people crave and value face-to-face interaction. Additionally, the golf industry is very impassioned, and passionate industries are best served when we can get together each year to be energized by one another and drive the industry forward. When you combine that with the leading brands, newest products, amazing technology and innovation, powerful education, a multitude of networking opportunities, and memorable experiences, you have the recipe for success at the PGA Merchandise Show
Not many years ago a number of key golf companies opted out in coming to the show. How did you win them back in 2011?
We listened closely to identify their most important objectives and concerns. We also kept our focus on attracting more PGA professionals, key buyers and high profile media to the Show. Simultaneously, we customized affordable, unique solutions for each brand that helped to achieve their objectives.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since being elevated to Event Director in 2013?
Stay positive as a leader. Listen to your team members, empower them and trust them to excel in their positions. If you have the right team members, they will surprise you in what they can achieve.
Why the need to include non-golf sports to the PGA Show and were key stakeholders advised prior to doing so and what’s been the reaction since?
Because our customers asked for it. As golf facilities needed to do more and to diversify their offerings to attract and retain members, they asked us to incorporate more fitness and, since then, Racquet & Paddle sports and, more recently, additional food and beverage solutions, which we will be working on for the 2021 PGA Show. Our stakeholders have been supportive of these additions, and feedback from attendees has been extremely positive.
During a typical day at the show — outline a breakdown of where you spend your time and what crucial elements are front and center.
There is no typical day at the PGA Show! However, I do enjoy being out on the Show Floor talking to exhibitors and attendees, and experiencing the energy and vibe of our industry gathering. In reality, half of my time is probably spent in meetings or working with team members, and the other half of the time on the Show Floor.
Has there been discussion in opening up the show to the general public and what are the pluses and minuses in doing so?
There have been discussions and some have asked for this, however the majority of our customers are still opposed to opening the Show to the public. Our customers will drive any decision — and we will always keep an open mind to the possibilities. We currently feel that through our media partnerships with the Golf Channel, CBS Sports, Sirius XM radio and others, and through social media channels, that passionate golf consumers can get a real “Insider’s View” to the Show.
Does continuing with two shows – one in Orlando and the other in Las Vegas in August continue to make sense from a practical side?
Yes, absolutely. The Vegas Show in August is much easier to attend for those in warm weather climates where August is their slow season — thus making it easy for them to get away from their shops for a couple of days — and January is conversely their peak season — making it very tough for them to attend the PGA Merchandise Show. In addition, the timing for the Vegas PGA Show works well for the apparel side of the business as spring lines are being launched, and it takes place during Las Vegas Fashion Week, as well.
All of the major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA — are seeking ways to attract Millennials, women and minorities to the sport. If you were counseling them what would you advise be done?
Focus on making the game as fun and welcoming as possible, with options to participate with a low time commitment. Three-hole, six-hole and nine-hole options should be embraced, as well par-3 courses. Topgolf is doing a great of attracting new players to the game, plus the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf and PGA of America’s PGA Jr. League are great examples of new programs that are working.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
How intimidating it currently can be for beginners to take up the game
What’s the biggest lesson the broader golf industry learned following The Great Recession which ended in 2009?
Know your customers more closely then you ever did before, recognize that each is very unique in their needs and be prepared to over deliver on their expectations.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
This a tough one since I have received great advice from so many people through the years. I’d have to go back to Tom Murphy, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Hamilton College for 34 years, and one of the winningest college basketball coaches of all time. He always reminded me that no matter how tough things are, you need to make it fun and to keep a sense of humor. That being said, he was one of the most intense, hard-working coaches I’ve ever known, but at the same time, he had an amazing sense of humor, and loved practical jokes. He knew how to create winning teams and keep them motivated and working hard, yet having fun along the way.
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