Saturday, March 2, 2024

Going Bigger – Colorado Golf Association

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Colorado Golf Expo expands — both space-wise and in its offerings to attendees for 2024 show

By Gary Baines – 2/12/2024

The Colorado Golf Expo — or its similarly named predecessor— has been around since the 1990s, but there’s been considerable evolution over time. And change especially has been the norm over the last three-plus years.

Some examples:

— To start with, there’s the name change. Prior to the 2022 show, it was known as the Denver Golf Expo.

— Also leading up to the 2022 Expo, it moved from its longtime home at the Denver Mart  — at I-25 and 58th Ave. — to the Colorado Convention Center.

— In 2021, an in-person Expo wasn’t held at all — for the first time in decades — due to safety-related concerns in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

— At the end of 2022, Mark and Lynn Cramer, owners and operators of the Golf Expo for more than 22 years, sold the show to Pueblo native Kevin Morton.

All that being the case, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 2024 Expo — set for Friday through Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center (700 14th St. in Denver) — will continue to evolve. That’s especially the case given that Morton now more fully has his feet underneath him after facing a quick turnaround for his first show as owner/operator, a year ago.

“The Cramers are amazing people,” Morton said last week in a phone interview. “What was great was everything was so well organized. The short transition we had last year (between the sale of the Expo and the show itself) was made easier because of how organized they were. The transition, with the full year being under my belt without the Cramers, it just makes it a lot easier. I’m happy with where we are.”

Many things about the show will carry on — its focus on being an early-year opportunity to get deals on merchandise, equipment, services and rounds of golf; a place to try out clubs, get free 10-minute lessons from Colorado PGA professionals, attend seminars led by experts in the golf industry; and a chance to learn more about what’s going on in Colorado golf. 

But Morton is going for bigger and — hopefully, from his perspective — better for this week’s show. 

Let’s count some of the ways:

— Space-wise, the floor plan for the 2024 Expo will be larger by 40 percent, with 140,000 square feet compared to 100,000 last year. That’s the reason the Expo switched halls within the Convention Center this year, to Hall C.

“We added 40,000 square feet because we wanted to add another 25-ish exhibitors,” Morton said. “We also had quite a few exhibitors who wanted to expand the size of their booths — people going from 10X10 to 10X20 or from 20X20 to 20X40. We wanted to make sure we had room between that and for the centralized festival area we call ‘Links & Drinks.’ That’s why we did the expansion.”

— Even a year ago, Morton made no secret of the direction he’d like to take the Expo: prioritizing getting younger people coming to the event, wanting more interactive events and more nationally recognized people conducting seminars, and adding elements such as Q and A’s and autograph sessions. To that end …

Live music will be featured on a large scale at the Expo for the first time, and it will cover quite a range. There will be solo keyboardists, the Blues, popular covers, classic rock covers, and guitars/vocals. And on Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Saturday from 2-5, the group K2 will play. It features Kimberley Dahme, a former member of the rock band Boston.

“We’ve added some new things that people were asking for,” Morton said. “One was a centralized area with live music and food. We’re calling that area Links & Drinks. It’ll be an area where people can lounge — they can take a break as they go through the exhibit hall and hang out there a little bit. Then they can start up again and go through the exhibit hall even more.”

Jake Staiano — a former CGA Player of the Year and Colorado State golfer, winner of the 2021 Sinclair Rocky Mountain Open and runner-up at the 2021 Inspirato Colorado Open — will do a Q&A on Saturday at noon on the PGA seminar stage. He’ll be accompanied by Ryan French of Monday Q Info, who’s carved out a big niche telling the stories of underdogs making good in elite-level golf. French also will be featured on Friday on Sunday, in both cases at noon.

Prior to the Saturday Q&A — as part of an Expo partnership with French, GOLFTEC and Callaway — 10 sets of golf clubs and a new golf simulator will be presented to the golf teams from Rangeview High School in Aurora at about 11 a.m. 

“We did a little surveying on a needs basis of the schools that were out there,” Morton said. “After talking to some coaches and people in the industry, we found the coach at Rangeview had been going to ARC and Goodwill trying to find and piecemeal golf sets for his kids because a lot of his kids had never played golf before — or they couldn’t afford golf clubs. We went through the process and met with him, and it was apparent they would be a fantastic school to start with” for this donation.

Also on tap are a session with Chris Nickel of MyGolfSpy (1 p.m. Saturday). “I want to bring in the podcasters, the Twittersphere, social media-connected people and really focus in that area as well,” Morton said. 

There’s also an autograph session with former Denver Broncos kicker Rich Karlis (Saturday from 2-3 p.m).

“If we can get football players who may or may not play golf, maybe we can get them in the door and get them interested in golf. This kind of helps with that,” Morton said of the Karlis addition.

On Friday and Sunday, the tentative plan is for more of the traditional educational seminars led by experts in the golf industry. 

Meanwhile, at the CGA booth near the front of the Expo hall, membership benefits will be promoted for both current and prospective members. 

A large swath of the Expo floorplan is devoted to Lenny’s Golf Shop, which this year will include a limited full-club fitting area for the first time.

Specific participatory golf activities at this year’s Expo will include the traditional club demo area, the Colorado PGA 10-minute golf lessons, the First Tee chipping contest/lessons, an upgraded nine-hole miniature golf course (for a $5 fee in addition to general admission to the Expo) and a 90-foot-long-putting contest. There’s also Junior Golf Central, which caters to kids and information about golf opportunities for the younger set.

“Last year we had three 40-foot putting areas. This year we’re going to have one long — 90-foot — putting contest,” Morton said. “We’re bringing in hole hecklers to kind of emcee that area. I want to make it where people are having a great time, high-fiving each other and people around that area are cheering people on when they’re doing these 90-foot putts. We know we’re going to have good putts, we’re going to have bad putts and we’re going to have some ugly putts. It’s going to be fun.”

Among the organizations schedule to have exhibitor space are the two biggest tour-related spectator events on tap in Colorado in 2024: the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, presenting sponsor of the Golf Expo (Aug. 22-25 at Castle Pines Golf Club), and the the Korn Ferry Tour’s Ascendant presented by Blue at TPC Colorado (July 11-14).

For a full list of the 2024 Expo exhibitors, CLICK HERE.

Last year, the Golf Expo attracted 8,535 attendees over the three days of the show, its best numbers since 2019. But Morton has bigger things in mind for 2024.

“I absolutely want that number to go up, being a larger show, a larger floorplan, more exhibitors,” he said. “I would love to hit 10,000. I know that is a lofty goal, but I don’t see why we can’t. I think we’ll have decent weather. I do know our website traffic and our pre-sales are brisk. Hopefully that is an indicator of the number of people who will be at the show.  

“The pre-sales are considerably more than last year at this time. But we’re also pushing it harder this year. That’s one thing I’m really trying to get people to do is get their tickets; that way they can bypass the registration desk. Our website traffic, we’re probably up about 20 percent right now. We are pushing social media a lot more than we have in the past.”

If the Expo attendance does indeed exceed 10,000, it would be the first time since 2012.

This weekend’s show runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information and/or for tickets, visit the Colorado Golf Expo website.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com

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