Think it couldn’t get much better than last year’s Southern Illinois Golf Expo at Rend Lake College? Think again.

The two-day extravaganza Saturday and Sunday, March 27-28, on the Ina campus promises to be the biggest and best yet, with factory representatives from 16 major golfing manufacturers available to share their wares with the public. More than 40 related vendors all told are expected inside and outside of Waugh Gymnasium.

Here’s the gimme. The Southern Illinois Golf Expo 2004 is free.

Free parking and free admittance mean area golf afficionados cannot afford to miss an opportunity to try out the very latest in equipment during Demo Days Saturday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-5 p.m.), take advantage of discount prices, bid on a wide array of golf memorabilia in a silent auction, qualify to win challenge contests and door prizes, gain insight into many resorts and Midwest courses and enjoy an early spring day (or two) out with friends.

The RLC Coffee Shop will be providing free coffee and cookies.

The third annual exposition is the brainchild of The Southern Illinoisan newspaper. The Rend Lake College Golf Outlet and RLC MarketPlace joined forces on the Golf Expo’s behalf a year ago.

But the company representatives, many of whom are former playing professionals, and factory reps will share the spotlight and their knowledge with the thousands of local participants expected.

Confirmations have been received from PING and Callaway Golf, as well as Cleveland Golf, TaylorMade, Titleist, Cobra, Tour Edge, PowerBilt, Hogan, Top-Flite, Srixon, Nike Golf, FootJoy, Precept, Datrek and Hornung’s.

A special area for younger players will be introduced for the first time. It will feature a variety of children’s equipment, plus games and inflatable fun.

The first 300 guests each day will receive free bags of golf items. There will be a Weber Grill demonstration with free samples from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday only.

Major sponsors in addition to The Southern and Rend Lake College include Auffenberg of Carbondale, Borowiak’s IGA, First Cellular of Southern Illinois, Little Egypt Golf Cars, Murdale Changing Seasons and Subway.

Other participating vendors will include 710 Bookstore, Attitude Designs, Bent Oak Golf Course, Eagle Creek Golf Course, Fore Golfers Only, Franklin County Tourism, Jefferson County Tourism, Rend Lake College Retail Store, Rend Lake Golf Course, Shoe Stop, Silkworm, Sport Court of Western Kentucky, St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Sports Medicine and Williamson County Tourism.

Organizers from both The Southern Illinoisan and Rend Lake College have spent recent weekends in Chicago, Indianapolis and elsewhere attending major golf shows to recruit outside vendors, borrow ideas which could make the Southern Illinois Golf Expo 2004 one of the premier such shows in the Midwest and to promote March 27-28 festivities.

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