“DID YOU KNOW”
A Philadelphia Golf Professional was the Father of the PGA Merchandise Show!
Johnny McDermott, Morrie Talman and Frank Sprogell all grew up on the same city block in West Philadelphia and were within a few years of each other in age. They were introduced to golf as caddies at the Aronimink Golf Club, which was then located near where they lived. McDermott went on to win back to back US Opens and Talman became the head professional at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club where he held forth for 40 years.
Frank T. Sprogell was born in Philadelphia in 1895. He turned pro in 1913 to take a job as the assistant at the Pocono Pines Golf Club. The next year, he was the professional at Philmont Country Club, and from 1915 to 1916 he was the professional at Bon Air Country Club, which later changed its name to Llanerch CC. From there Sprogell moved to Tennessee, where he worked as a head professional. While in Memphis he won the Tennessee Open.
After that he was the professional at several well know golf clubs in Michigan, where he became involved in PGA affairs. For five years he was a PGA of America vice president, which is now called director. At the national meeting in late 1940 he was elected to the office of secretary, which he held for five years. At the same time, he was president of the Michigan PGA for eight years.
In 1957 Sprogell took on a new challenge when he was hired to be the golf professional and general manager at the PGA National Golf Club in Dunedin, Florida. He had noticed that for a few years the pro-golf salesmen had been displaying their wares on card tables in the parking lot during the Senior PGA Championship. That January, Sprogell rented a tent from Ringling Brothers Circus that was wintering in Sarasota. The tent was put up next to the club’s parking lot during the senior championship, and sold exhibit space to 50 golf salesmen and golf companies. The next year he rented a larger tent and then a second tent.
Under cover the show grew by leaps and bounds and came to be known as the PGA Merchandise Show. It became one of the PGA’s largest revenue producers. With the move of the PGA National Golf Club to Palm Beach Gardens, the show continued on in larger tents. From there it moved indoors to Disney World near Orlando. After that it was in Miami and then back to Orlando at its present home, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. There is a demo day, where the golf professionals can try the newest golf equipment outdoors. For the next three days the latest golf merchandise is on display with salespeople on duty for the placing of orders at 1,100 booths. The show which is now televised by the Golf Channel will attract 40,000 people from the golf industry this January.
In 1998 the PGA of America sold the show, which still exists with the same name, for more than 100 million dollars. The golf show was the brainchild of Philadelphia’s Frank T. Sprogell, and he should he remembered as the “Father of the PGA Merchandise Show”.