Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome To The Future: Cell Phones At Tour Events

A few thousand fans were gathered around the 18th green Sunday afternoon at Sedgefield Country Club as Arjun Atwal prepared to knock in the six-foot putt that won him the Wyndham Championship and something interesting happened.

Not a single cell phone rang.

Last week was the first official test of allowing cell phones -- or mobile devices as the signs on site called them -- into a PGA Tour event and it came off just fine. The silent buttons worked.

Cell phones ring at every PGA Tour event whether they've been allowed in or not. Fans bring them in and use them. By saying it was okay -- and using concession areas as acceptable places to take and make calls -- the Wyndham Championship took a gamble that phones wouldn't interrupt play.

They didn't.

That doesn't mean it won't happen at future events but it didn't happen last week.

My guess is the tour will give it another try somewhere this fall and, perhaps as early as next year, allow cell phones into events.

I'm enough of a traditionalist that the idea initially bothered me but I know we live in a different time. I carry my cell phone with me most places I go just in case I need it. Even on the golf course, though not always.

As Mark Brazil, the Wyndham tournament director and one of the people who promoted the idea, said, just because one person doesn't want cell phones at a golf tournament doesn't mean they should tell others they can't have them if they're not disrupting play.

Talking to several players about it last week, none seem bothered by allowing the phones in. They figure fans are bringing them anyway because they see -- and occasionally -- hear them. Times have changed. The tour has to change with them.

Tell a potential spectator he can't have his phone with him for the five or six hours he's going to watch a golf tournament and you're going to lose some spectators. That's not in anyone's best interest these days.