The winner of next year’s PGA Merchandise Show
By Zak Kozuchowski
GolfWRX Managing Editor
We’ve already covered the big winners of the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show. If you haven’t read the story, click here to read about this year’s big winners.
But just as golfers always need to focus on the new shot, golf equipment junkies are always wondering what’s next in the industry.
Cobra-Puma Golf didn’t have a specific piece of equipment that stood out at this year, but its booths were still one of the most popular places to be at this year’s show.
Cobra-Puma created hip, fun environment that was unlike any other brand. As all things at Cobra-Puma seem to be right now, everything was orange. Drinks at the company’s booth included Sunkist and Shock Top beer, which was fittingly served in orange cups. If you wanted to hit one of the company’s new clubs at demo day (most of which are orange), all you needed to do was locate one of the company’s representatives, who were easy to spot in the company’s orange outfits.
But as much as orange overwhelmed the company’s image at this show, the Cobra-Puma brand proved to be about more than just color. It’s an image built on Cobra-Puma superstars Lexi Thompson and Rickie Fowler — two young golf professionals with limitless potential, great looks and great futures.
It was long rumored that Fowler would join the brand in 2012 (click here to watch the GolfWRX exclusive interview with Fowler when he official joined the Cobra-Puma team). We expected that he would add even more Puma logos to his outfits, but few expected he would jump so quickly into a set of Cobra irons and the company’s new driver and fairway woods.
It’s reminiscent of when Tiger Woods joined Nike Golf on the eve of his pro career, but even Woods wasn’t so quick to make the jump into his sponsor’s equipment. By getting Cobra gear into the hands of Fowler immediately, Cobra legitimized its new equipment line, a huge step after the company’s break from Fowler’s previous sponsor, Titleist.
Many golfers will question the oranged-out look of Puma-Cobra’s AMP driver, fairways, hybrids and irons, but after testing the products it’s clear that Puma was able to successfully integrate fashion and function in its golf clubs. Click here to see pictures of the AMP Forged Iron. Click here to see pictures of Fowler’s AMP Prototype Blades.
During the show, I had the chance to interview Thompson. She, like the brand she represents, is a part of the new breed in professional golf.
Thompson first made golf headlines at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, where she qualified for the event at the age of 12. She turned professional at age 15, even though she was not officially able to join the LPGA Tour due to age restrictions. She played her way into several LPGA Tour events through qualifying, however, and less than two years later successfully petitioned the Tour for membership based on her four-shot victory at the 2011 LPGA Navistar Classic in Sept. 2011, which made her the youngest LPGA tournament winner in history.
Thompson validated her talent again at the Dubai Ladies Masters in Dec. 2011, where she won by five shots. But the ultra-competitive 16-year-old, who plays heated matches in the off season with her brothers (Nickolas, a PGA Tour player and Curtis, who plays on LSU’s golf team), gave off a completely different vibe at the PGA Merchandise Show. She was ever present at all of the Cobra-Puma events, easily approachable, full of smiles, and even spent a few minutes hanging out with DJ Scotty B, making her the only person ever in pink golf shoes to ever work turntables.
On Thursday night, Puma-Cobra threw a party. After flashing a Cobra-Puma provided white VIP wristband to get in, I was ushered into a venue that felt more like the Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach than any country club I’d ever visited.
Diego Velazquez, Anna Nordqvist and Blair O’Neal were in attendance, and mingled with the crowd like partygoers instead of brand ambassadors. I watched a young man order a beer and then be promptly checked for I.D., which made me laugh. Then, I remembered that the 16-year-old Thompson was in attendance.
Most of us will never have the talent of Fowler of Thompson, but that’s not really what Cobra-Puma is about. As the skirted man from the Jumbo Max Golf Grips TV commerical told me, “Golf is supposed to be fun.”
Cobra-Puma is certainly making the game more colorful, and it’s finding ways to have fun. The company is making great products as well. It will be exciting to see what Cobra-Puma has up its sleeve for next year, because it’s off to a great start.