By Mike Dougherty
HARRISON – There was a time when cell phones inspired the wrath of easily-distracted golf players and quiet-please marshals. But as soon as the now omnipresent touch screens got smarter, they graduated from nuisance to necessity.
You can bring your cell phone to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and use it in plain sight.
Officials from all of the major golf tours had to relent when social media became an inexpensive thoroughfare for information and promotion. Want to connect with most of the LPGA players in the field during the June 9-14 tournament at Westchester Country Club? A quick glance at the caddie bibs will give you Twitter handles.
It is, however, against the rules for a competitor to tweet during a round.
“For me, it’s nice when I play golf, I don’t have to touch (my phone),” said Suzann Pettersen, whose 14 LPGA wins include the 2007 LPGA Championship. “It kind of gives you a four-hour or five-hour break from the telephone, which I think has become a really bad habit for everyone.
“I think social media, for us as players, is a great way of communicating with the fans. You can let them take part in whatever you feel like is in the comfort zone. And it’s a great way for the fans to show their support. Golf crowds in general are fairly knowledgeable. You’ll always have one or two in the crowd who will pull it out at the wrong time, but it’s not usually a problem.”
Access to the LPGA and KPMG Women’s PGA Championship websites helps to enhance the live experience, providing scoring updates, player bios and video.
There are some rules.
All mobile devices must be switched to silent or vibrate. Spectators may only talk on their phones in designated areas, which are primarily near the concession stands, a safe distance from the action inside the ropes. The use of still camera functions on mobile devices are only allowed during Tuesday and Wednesday practice rounds.
No videos can be taken during tournament week.
Those who violate the rules or cause a disturbance will be asked to hand over their mobile device and pick it up on the way out.
“When cell phones were first allowed on the course during tournaments, people didn’t know when and where they could and couldn’t use them,” championship director Bob Jeffrey said. “Now they are more savvy about using them properly. We don’t usually have to confiscate many phones.”