The 26th Annual ING Spring Conference May 22-26 at Zermatt Resort in Heber Valley, Utah rated as the most successful conference in recent years based on the post-conference survey issued to attendees. The conference was conducted by the not-for-profit International Network of Golf.
Sixty percent of respondents rated their ING Conference experience as “Excellent,” and another 29 percent rated it as “Above Average.” Host Zermatt Resort and the Soldier Hollow and Wasatch Mountain golf complexes also rated higher than any recent conference host.
The popular One-On-One Appointment Show once again was selected easily as the most important element of the annual gathering of golf industry leaders and media. The Appointment Show is a series of 15-minute private meetings between Exhibitors and Attendees of their choice – speed dating for golf companies and media. The session expands to nearly six hours over two mornings.
The kickoff session, the Millennials Roundtable, featured Heber Valley Tourism Development Communications Manager Dallin Koecher, Golf Skate Caddy EVP Patrick Pires, SNAG Golf Director of Education and Training Dr. Lindsey Sams, Bridgestone Golf Director of Licensed Products Dominic Selfa, and Susan Song, Chief Marketing Officer for the 18Birdies. PGA Magazine Senior Editor Roger Graves was the moderator.
Some of the key touch points prominently mentioned by panelists included the frequent and innovative use of social media and related technology, the need to make both introductory lessons and the on-course experience itself “fun,” and understanding that Millennials are typically more interested in the overall experience of a round of golf than the pressure of trying to beat par or their fellow competitors. Song and Pires, both representing products with a significant stake in the Millennial target market, stressed the importance of hitting those consumers where they live, on their phones and other social media platforms, and doing so as often as possible.
Another seminar, “Companies Already Bridging The Gap,” featured three organizations reaching the younger audiences. Topgolf is a sports entertainment community with 24 locations serving 8 million guests annually, Dana Berlin, Director of Operations, was on hand to tell the Topgolf story, which includes an upscale, playful experience with food, beverages, music, games, climate-controlled hitting bays and hundreds of HDTVs.
SNAG Golf is a first-touch program that effectively teaches golf, and is the program of choice in 42 countries and over 10,000 schools and park facilities. John Johnson, Marketing Director, shared some staggering numbers about golf’s current state of affairs, bringing awareness to the need to capture the interest of youngsters in schools.
18Birdies is an integrated golf platform powering the next generation of golf technology and reimagining the golf experience. 18Birdies inspires golfers of all ages and skill levels by managing their games, motivating them through competition, and sharing their experiences with other golfers. Jeremy Crittenden, Director of Communications, shared strategies of the mobile app company.
The Social Media Workshop – As CEO of Gigg Inc., Scott Warner is focused on empowering people and businesses to share and connect with the world by providing the highest quality content, services and products that entertain, engage and enlighten. The Salt Lake City-based Warner shared secrets of his success when he conducted the Social Media Marketing workshop on Wednesday. A full room listened intently as Warner explained key elements of a successful Social Media platform.
TUESDAY NIGHT BANQUET
The tribute was to former ING Executive Committee member and Razor Golf President George Baker, who passed away in January following a stroke. Mitch Laurance read the tribute as photos of George taken at previous ING Conferences were shown on the screen.
The first of the awards went to a most deserving Andy Mears from the First Tee of Chicago. Andy was honored with election to the ING Diamond Cornerstone Club for his extraordinary contributions to the good of ING and its members. Andy is the 15th person to be elected to the Diamond Cornerstone Club.
Andy has served as an Advisory Board and Executive Committee member for several terms, and is also the chair of the ING Membership Committee. Andy has never said “no” when asked to help out in various sales, conference assistance, or planning capacities. His love for the organization is often expressed and always on display. So is our love for Andy.
The CHASE54 Best Dressed winners were chosen and announced by Amy Yanda-Lee and Keely Pemberton of the ING apparel sponsor. Two radio show hosts – Tony Leodora of Golf Talk Live and Holly Geoghegan of The Golf Insiders – were the Man and Woman best dressed. And in special tribute to the ING Conference theme, Bridging Golf’s Generation Gap, CHASE54 awarded the best dressed Millennial, Dominic Selfa of Bridgestone Golf. The three winners received outfits from CHASE54.
To close out the evening, Eddie Caiazzo of TL Golf Services put his disc jockey talents and equipment on display, with special contributions from Dr. Lindsey Sams of SNAG Golf. The hearty souls who hung around danced to the tunes until midnight.
CONFERENCE BEST WINNERS
After finishing tied for second in 2015, Knuth Golf’s High Heat Driver took top honors in this year’s ING Conference Best Product voting by ING conference attendees. The High Heat Driver, 3-Wood and Hybrid were big hits on the practice range during the Demo Lab, featuring the 25% deeper and 18% lower CG than major brands, and the Optimal CG Changer and Fire Zone Face technologies. Designer Dean Knuth and Vice-President Steve Trattner were on hand.
Fairways Magazine, the official publication of the Utah Golf Association and its 25,000 members, was voted by attendees as the ING Conference Best Publication. The magazine has the highest paid circulation of any locally published magazine in Utah, and is home delivered four times a year. Publisher/Editor Randy Dodson and Marketing Director Mike Stansfield represented Fairways at the conference.
GOLF TOURNAMENT WINNERS
Net winners were Ken MacLeod – 71, Tom Kotter – 72, Ed Travis – 73, Jim Smith – 74 and Mike Jamison – 74. They are eligible to compete in the World Amateur Golfers Tour National Championship Sept 20-22 at Swan Lake Resort in Indiana. Flight winners there will represent the U.S. in the WAGT World Championship in South Africa.
The 9th Annual Durland Cup winning team was Mikko Rantanen, Brian Stefan, Bob Oliver and Phyllis Poston. Les Durland was on hand to present the cup to the winning team. Les is son of the tournament namesake, Larry Durland, who served as the first ING Golf Committee chair. The competition was held on Soldier Hollow Golf Club’s Gold Course, ranked No. 3 in Utah.
In the Demo Lab Skills Challenge, Scott Dunford was the overall winner followed by Garrett Johnston. Individual Skills winners were: Long Drive: John Duval; Chip: Scott Dunford/Tom Cade; SNAG: Mike Kern; Putt: Scott Dunford; Accurate Fairway: Jim Smith.
The 27th Annual ING Spring Conference will be held May 21-25, 2017 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, FL. The announcement was made during the conference by Elizabeth Hall of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum.
For more information, visit www.inggolf.com.