This just about blew my mind.
Staying connected at the Shell Houston Open will be easier than ever this year, and golf fans won’t have to sneak their cellphones past the entrance gates to do so.
Starting with this year’s Honda Classic a couple of weeks ago, golf fans have been allowed to take their cellphones to the course during tournament play. It comes, of course, with several stipulations, chief among them, turning off the ringer, making calls in designated areas only and not taking pictures during the actual tournament.
Steve Timms, SHO tournament director and the chairman of the tournament action committee, presented the proposal for the new policy to the PGA Tour more than a year ago. The PGA Tour tested it at five events over the past six months and found that there was little, if any, interruptions of play.
The reason for the change in policy is twofold, said Timms, who also is president and CEO of the Houston Golf Association. First, the PGA Tour merely is acknowledging that cellphones and smartphones are an integral part of people’s lives. And secondly, the PGA Tour can use smartphones to its advantage, offering spectators downloadable applications that will allow them to follow the scoring and receive announcements regarding the tournament.
Timms said surveys among golf fans showed that having to check the cellphone at the gate was a deterrent to attending. Many people aren’t willing to be out of touch with the world for four or five hours.
“I know I don’t like to be without mine, and I know with the younger demographic, a lot of them don’t wear watches because that’s the way they tell time,” Timms said. “They want to be constantly in touch. It’s just part of our society.”
I don’t think I qualify as the “younger demographic” any more – maybe at a golf tournament I would – but yeah. I very seldom go anywhere without my cellphone and my BlackBerry, and if I had been told at the entrance for a sporting event that I’d need to check them with security for the duration (as had been the case with the PGA Tour), I’d ask for a refund and go home. I realize that golf is a little different than team sports – you’re up close to the action and are expected to keep quiet – but it still amazes me that professional golf is just cluing into this. I mean, you can get WiFi at Minute Maid, and the demand for wireless coverage at Reliant is bedeviling its engineers. How is it that golf managed to hold out for this long?