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GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans looks to Orlando for a bounce-back Conference and Show

By |  January 31, 2023 0 Comments

Many outside factors hindered the success of last year’s GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, largely based on California’s strict COVID-19 rules for large meetings. Now that the show returns to Florida next month — Orlando is historically the association’s most heavily attended location — Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) CEO Rhett Evans is hopeful to see record attendance for the first ‘normal’ show since the pandemic.

Rhett Evans (Photo: GCSAA)

Rhett Evans (Photo: GCSAA)

Along with this Q&A with Evans, we asked conference exhibitors if they had a product that could make an attendee stop in their tracks. We present these “showstopper” products — and where they can be found — here.

Golfdom: Rhett, thank you for taking the time. Looking at the schedule this year, Tuesday looks really different from years past, with ‘interactive learning tours.’ Tell us about the new things happening at GCSAA Conference and Show this year.

Evans: Monday and Tuesday, before the trade show starts, we’ve created seven interactive facility tours that will run in the morning and the afternoon. It will allow the attendees to have more of a hands-on learning experience. This is ultimately coupled with the trade show, looking at the products on the floor, on Wednesday and Thursday. When we look at those seven interactive tours, they’re going to be centered around a specific topic. For example, over at the Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes, we’ll have the superintendent there and subject matter experts walking through (best management practices). So you’ll physically get to see how they’re implementing and you’re on-site so you can ask questions.

Another example is we’ve got tournament prep at Bay Hill. Chris Flynn, CGCS, the superintendent there, will be walking through tournament prep, not only for major tournaments but all the way down to hosting a charity church tournament. There are seven of these (interactive tours), including one for equipment managers. It’s a new and improved way to learn.

Golfdom: What will this look like for attendees? How many people will be out on the golf course together?

Evans: I don’t know the number off the top of my head … whatever you can fit on two buses. We’ll go out there in the morning and then turn around and do it again in the afternoon. The reason for that is it’s going to be a walking tour. I mean, you’re going to be literally in a bunker. You’ll be on the property and moving around in golf carts, so it is capped.

Golfdom: How is attendance looking right now? How is it tracking?

Evans: Really good. Our key indicators are exhibitor sales. We’re taking out San Diego (2022 GCSAA Conference and Show) because we want to compare apples to apples. We’re going back to when we were in Orlando several years ago, and we’re on pace with where we were back then. One thing that we’re ahead of from the past is seminar seats. We’re doing fewer of them, but they are better quality.

Golfdom: Orlando is your best-attended show of the rotation. With last year’s San Diego show, there was some bad luck in regard to COVID and the mask mandate. Do you view this Orlando show as a chance for the show to make a big bounce back?

Evans: Yeah, that’s what we’re hoping for. And I think you said it well … San Diego was rough, from the standpoint of we weren’t quite out of COVID yet, then we had the Omicron variant that popped up right before the show and the mask mandates and other issues that were going on with the state of California. We believe we’re in the clear here, at least from a COVID standpoint. Florida is easier access in and out. It’s more golf-centric.

It’s historically been our high watermark in terms of attendees and exhibitors. We’re really looking forward to hopefully having COVID past us and back to normal if we call anything normal anymore.

Golfdom: How important is this show to the health of the GCSAA?

Evans: It’s our crowning event. It’s our opportunity to showcase all of our programs and services. We believe that our more than 19,000 members are essential to the game of golf and its success, and this show is essential to their success. It’s an opportunity for them to learn, grow and network with other golf course professionals. They’re learning from some of the brightest minds in the business. It’s extremely important, from the standpoint of taking the industry and the profession to the next level. We believe that we will be able to deliver that with some of these new interactive facility tours.

Golfdom: Is there anything else you want to point out about this show?

Evans: I think last year, for the welcome reception, we had a good opportunity on the USS Midway, which a lot of people took advantage of. We found that to be successful, so we’re replicating that in Orlando on Monday with the welcome reception, which will be outside at Aquatica, a SeaWorld property. I think a lot of people have been away and haven’t seen some of their friends. So to be able to come together in a setting like that, it will be good to be face-to-face with folks and share the stories of the past couple of years and reconnect.

About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.


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