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'Detroit showed up': Fans empty the shelves of Rocket Mortgage Classic gear

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Detroit — By the time tournament leader Nate Lashley teed off Sunday afternoon, the Rocket Mortgage Classic fan shop at Detroit Golf Club was only good for one thing.

Air conditioning.

Surrounded by empty merchandise shelves, Nick Banaszak, 36, of Farmington waits for a friend trying on a shirt at the PGA Tour Fan Shop.

OK, there were a handful of assorted polo and long-sleeve T-shirts remaining, but not much more than that. At the row of cash registers, volunteers stood idly by as customers entered through the left and, after seeing the barren stock, departed to the right just seconds later.

For both the PGA Tour and customers looking to grab some swag from the inaugural tournament, it was an unfortunate situation. But the bright side? Detroit’s craving for tournament merchandise “blew through our benchmarks,” said Jason Langwell, Rocket Mortgage Classic executive director.

He said the tournament was somewhat cautious with the pre-order. They set a target, and then ordered 20 percent more than that. The tournament owns the merchandise, and it didn’t want to be left with too much waste. Shirts and hats go out of style just about every year, Langwell said.

“We took a look at merchandise from our peer groups, (PGA Tour events in) like-size markets, so we got an idea,” Langwell said.

“Then we ordered 20 percent more. We ended up the first two days at 3X (three times).”

You can bet for Year 2, the pre-orders will be more ambitious.

Hats and pin flags were the most popular sellers. PGA Tour tournament retail manager Patrick Velazquez said Sunday the fan shop ordered an additional 1,800 hats — three orders — and 300 flags late in the week.

“It just blew everybody’s expectations, but it’s a good thing. And this gives us data for next year, so we know what to expect,” Velazquez said.

“You’ve got a couple people who are upset, but they’re like, ‘Wow, this is neat.’”

What really jumped out to both Velazquez and tasc Performance vendor Miles Meckstroth, though, was how much hometown pride was shown by the purchases.

Spectators in the Fan Zone near the PGA Tour Fan Shop.

There were many items that trumpeted Detroit, including one of the most popular sellers, the Rickie Fowler PUMA hat with the Detroit skyline on it.

“Anything that said Detroit” flew off the shelf, Meckstroth said, adding the merchandise building’s lines “were wrapping around the store” during Saturday’s third round. “The Detroit pride is just through the roof. They’re really excited to have the tournament here.”

The weather (sunny and in the 80s all four days), tournament field, and who made the cut are all factors in how much merchandise a tournament moves, Velasquez said.

“We’ve been doing this long enough where all that takes into account," he said.

While the weather was borderline perfect, albeit a bit on the warmer side, over the four days of golf, some of the tournament’s biggest names — Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland — failed to make the cut.

“It didn’t matter,” Velasquez said. “Detroit showed up.”

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

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