The 25th Anniversary ING Spring Conference, presented by Freedom Golf Association, proved to be an event worthy of a 25-year milestone.
Nearly 160 attendees enjoyed the components that comprise this annual gathering of media and golf industry leaders, held this year at the beautiful and historic at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, FL, near Orlando.
Three informative workshops, an eye-opening Growth of the Game panel, an inspirational evening spotlighting adaptive golf, a house-shaking rock concert, a packed Demo Lab and the popular Appointment Show were among the highlights.
These panelists spoke from the firing lines in the Growing The Game From The Trenches panel, which kicked off the educational sessions at the conference. Pam Swensen, CEO of the Executive Women’s Golf Association, John Johnson of SNAG Golf, Kevin Unterreiner from Hack To Jack TV Show, David Windsor of Adaptive Golf Academy and Mike Tinkey of the National Golf Course Owners Association shared with the audience details about programs from their respective areas in the industry. The panel was moderated by former golf columnist Les Schupak.
Dr. Robert K. Winters, noted sport psychologist from the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, shared with his attendees the secrets of top performing athletes and high producing business people and how you can instantly start on the road to ultimate success.
In her workshop, Connie Charles, founder of iMapMyTeam, provided a pathway for managers to get the most out of their teams utilizing personal information provided by team members.
Social Media expert Dawn Raquel Jensen covered a wealth of information regarding marketing through Social Media in her Digital Field of Dreams workshop, sharing knowledge from a 20-year technology and marketing career.
The Dennis Walters Courage Award was special this year for two reasons. One, the recipient was among the most worthy ever. E.Q. Sylvester was a successful businessman and an active golfer both on the course and in the boardrooms of golf’s governing bodies in the Chicago area before becoming a triple amputee. He then founded Freedom Golf Association, dedicated to bringing joy and a sense of freedom to the special needs community through their inclusion in the game of golf. Secondly, the award’s namesake and first winner, Dennis Walters, was on hand to present the award. He also conducted his world-famous trick shot show before a wide-eyed audience at the Demo Lab.
Attendees voted for their favorite product and publication in the annual ING Conference Best contests. Favorite product went to Razor Golf’s “The Sorcerer” Laser Putter trainer, which nipped Knuth Golf’s High Heat driver and training aid Swingclick for top honors. Golfstyles magazine led the voting for Conference Best publication, with FORE Georgia taking second.
Three organizations were given Special Recognition awards for their long-running support of ING – TaylorMade-adidas Golf, PGA Golf Exhibitions and Golfpac Travel.
The Demo Lab attracted 20 companies, from equipment manufacturers like TaylorMade, Nike and Tour Edge, to training aids like Swingclick and Eyeline, to instructors Gary Gilchrist, Kay McMahon and Dave Bisbee, to special products like Golf Skate Caddy and Fling Golf.
For over three hours attendees tested the products, learned new swing tips, and witness some amazing golf shots. ParaLong Drivers were on hand to demonstrate their special skills, as was four-year-old sensation Tommy Morrissey, who with one arm banged long, straight shots throughout the session.
The One-On-One Appointment Show featured 28 exhibitors who participated in approximately 15 20-minute meetings with individual attendees. Year-in and year-out the Appointment Show is voted as the most popular element of the conference in post-conference surveys.
Five players earned spots in the National Championship of the World Amateur Golfers Tour by winning their flight in the ING Qualifier. The qualifier was conducted on the famed El Campeon Course at Mission Inn. John Duval, Jim Smith, Tom Gorman, Shan Coughlin and Tim Branco receive complimentary entry and accommodations in the WAGT Nationals, set for Sept. at Shawnee Inn in the Poconos. Flight winners there will represent the USA in the World Championship in Turkey.
The 8th Annual ING Durland Cup was won by the threesome of Kevin Unterreiner, Tom Gorman and Michael Vandiver at 12-under-par, after a card playoff.
The Tuesday Night Reunion Banquet was capped off by a special concert by Strombringer, sponsored by Razor Golf and Jan Stephenson Wines. The Tampa-based group that has played across the globe rocked the house, finishing off a memorable night of awards and inspirational speeches by Dennis Walters, E.Q. Sylvester and D.J. Gregory.
Also, Sky Golf sponsored a closest to the pin contest in ClubING Monday night, utilizing a simulator.
And finally, a special video tribute honoring Larry Durland was presented at the Golf Awards Reception Wednesday afternoon. Created by Carlton Vinson, the video paid tribute to Durland, who passed away in January. The former golf writer served as the ING Golf Committee chair for about a decade, and was a founding member of ING. His daughter Marti Ramsey was on hand to present the winners.