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PGA misses PR Opportunity with Fans

A couple of weeks ago I was faced with a challenge unlike anything I’d experienced in the last few years while attending the Professional Golf Association’s premier event – the PGA Championship — at the beautiful Whistling Straights golf course in Kohler, Wis. I went to the tourney as a fan, not as a member of the media, which limited my communication throughout the day.

According to PGA rules, I was not allowed to bring a phone or mobile device of any kind (which in my case, are one in the same) into the venue.  I could deal with having to silence my phone, but to be removed from social media and email was trying for someone who depends on those tools to run and monitor a publicity business.

After all, I was pretty excited about the prospects of how I could monitor other holes from my iPhone – the PGA touted its apps like few other organizations do. But they weren’t app-licable to me. I was there.

As it turns out, it was a Friday in August and people who may have contacted me were either at the beach or cutting their days short so correspondence wasn’t crucial. There’s always that “what if” though, and I was nervous that the biggest opportunity of my career might come across in a tweet while I was incommunicado.

Alas, all remained calm on the social media front.
It still made me think – how could the PGA bring its fans closer to the experience? After all, it had a most scenic, anticipated major, thousands of people who would want to post thoughts about it and share photos, but were unable to tap a key. Requiring silenced phones is the most obvious answer, but what about concerns regarding camera shutters or email tone alerts? Can mobile devices be regulated at a golf tournament much like the FAA mandates that all of your electronic toys be turned off during taxi, takeoff and landing?

While that question remained swirling my head, I did take to the pen and paper (security allowed me to keep those) during the tournament so I could share what I wish I could have via Twitter and other outlets. So, imagine if you will, a meticulously landscaped golf course surrounded by thousands of bunkers and tall grass with the soothing sites of Lake Michigan in the background…

Things I would have tweeted from the PGA Championship:

• Fog delayed play for a second day and we’re awaiting end of 1st, beginning of 2nd rounds. Sun starts to break through about 11:30 a.m.

• Magnificently beautiful hilly landscape as second round begins on the 10th tee.

• {Twitpic} Wis Governor Jim Doyle passes and takes a spot next to us as he assimilates among the crowd. He hits all the big events.

• Getting steamy – temps in the 80s with lots of humidity. People around us are getting smelly (we used extra-strength deodorant).

• We hear rumors that 1st round is now complete (carried over from Thurs) but w/ no mobile device, we don’t know who finished where.

• {Twitpic} Guy with Miller Lite bottle in his back pocket. Only in Wisconsin!

Mickelson with drive in the mega-rough. Comes up with predictably placed ball a foot from tee. He does that well.

• {Twitpic} Lefty in peach shirt. Always kind to the galleries, or as they say at The Master’s, patrons.

• 11 is an amazing hole. We stood over the tee box. One bad slip and we would have been in play.

• Breathtaking view off 16th tee overlooking Lake Michigan.

• Sure wish I had my camera. Standing below hills looking up looks like the old Coke commercial from 15 looking north. A major stream of people.

Tiger’s shot on 2 lands about a foot from us in a bunker. Where is my camera, again?

• Tiger from the bunker: yells “ball right… shit!”

Some golf purists may say that my not having a camera was a good thing.  Tiger Woods might say the same for the predetermined number of press that’s allowed to follow him inside the ropes. The millisecond after his club hits a ball, shutters sound in progression.

Something makes me think that fans could be able to bring their mobile devices with them to a major. They could their experiences as we do when we watch an event on television or from other venues, and better include fans old and new to the experience. My bet is that the subsequent sagging television ratings would have been higher if people read tweets like others and mine.

What do you think? Should the PGA allow fans to bring their mobile devices into a tournament so that they may share their experiences?

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7 Responses to PGA misses PR Opportunity with Fans

  1. Sue Anne Reed August 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    I think any organization that is currently limiting these types of things in order to “protect” broadcast rights, etc. is really missing the boat. How many of the people that follow you on Twitter also regularly follow the PGA? In my case, it might be about 10%. But, maybe one of your tweets would have inspired someone to watch the next tournament or become more interested in one of the golfers.

    Also, this post itself is a perfect example. Instead of writing about how great your experience was going to to a major, you’re instead writing about the PGA did wrong.

  2. Rick Hamrick August 26, 2010 at 2:42 am #

    I don’t have any personal knowledge as to why the PGA prohibits such devices, but as a golfer, I can assure you that doing anything to discourage the often-obnoxious sounds the devices make when someone calls or a text comes in or… you get the idea…is a really good tactic. It simply is not a game easily played while people who are not professionals at it are pointing devices at you and clicking them when it is least convenient for you, as a player.

    And, bottom line, the PGA has a vested interest in the pros playing well. No one has any interest in tuning in to watch guys botch it, other than the strange attraction we all have to train wrecks.

    For me, it’s a whole lot like smoking. The venue hosting the smoker or the tweeter gets to decide what they will or will not allow. By the same toke(n), the patron gets to decide if the restrictions are simply too much to bear, and they withhold their patronage if it is.

    If you decide it is worth it to go radio-silent, then put the devices (and smokes) away, and enjoy the event.

  3. A fan August 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Nope … I loved the freedom of being out of reach and out of touch when I attended the (old) US Bank Championship in Milwaukee and Bridgestone in Akron. I don’t need/want to hear some obnoxious “fan” letting me know how important he/she is by talking loudly on their phone or moving around the course with his/her head down because they are responding to email/Facebooking/Tweeting or just trying to look important. I love that the organizers put the event first!

  4. Big Cheese August 26, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    Nope, fans are welcome to attend on Tues or Wed and wander the course with a camera and phone (still no ringer) for a small price. They then can attend over the weekend for what would be a handful of hours without access to the outside world. I also disagree with your headline, unless you had surveyed many of the fans that attended that specific event.

  5. Gsideman August 26, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    For the very reason — possibly leading a few more eyes to the event — is the reason I wrote this post. I have no interest in disturbing focused golfers, and respect the policies put in place for that reason. I just have to believe that there is a way for responsible people to share their experiences while witnessing the event without creating chaos among the field of golfers.

  6. Gsideman August 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    Thanks all for your comments.

    I’m not trying to find a way to be disruptive or “look important.” I saw several others who potentially were bigger distractions than if they were quietly tweeting.

    All in all, however, people were respectful, and I believe would be so if provided a device that would limit the noise of any “experience sharing” devices.

  7. Anonymous August 31, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    Actually talked to one guy who said it was a great experience but wouldn’t go again unless the rules for mobile devices changed. He said there’s too much catching up with emails and the like at the end of the day (often 8 hours plus), there, when he could be quietly answering them as the day went on.

    PGA could be moving toward change. I spoke with someone at the Association after he read this post.

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