January 31, 2012

Waste Management Phoenix Open puts phones in play

Marshals at the Waste Management Phoenix Open will still hold up familiar "Quiet Please" signs during this week's tournament in Scottsdale, but the hushed world of golf is about to come to grips with the digital swing of modern life.

Silent cellphones will be allowed at TPC Scottsdale this year, and the tournament is unveiling a free app to help fans enjoy the golf and social networking.

A change in the PGA Tour policy last February, eight days after the Phoenix Open ended, has opened the gates to smartphones.

The caveat is golf fans must turn off their ring tones and are still banned from using their cellphone video cameras and can only take still photography on their phones for the preliminary events through Wednesday, said Alex Clark, Thunderbirds tournament chairman. The actual tournament is Thursday through Sunday.

"We're not here to ruin anybody's day," Clark said of cellphone scofflaws, but fans will be reminded about adhering to the policy.

Furtive cellphone use at the Phoenix Open has hardly been a secret, as tens of thousands of golf fans and the Open party crowd resisted being untethered from their digital lifelines. How else to find friends among the teeming crowds at the sprawling golf course?

At a tournament known for fans' audible enthusiasm and the Tiger roar of 1997, it's no great surprise that the host Thunderbirds have embraced the new PGA policy. The civic group's new smartphone app will serve as a digital program for the Open.

Developed by Scottsdale-based ABN Mobile Inc. and sponsored by Kyocera, the app will help fans navigate the course, catch up with a favorite golfer, check the leaderboard and find one of five Verizon call zones where they can make or receive a phone call.

"You can't be on the rope line talking on your cellphone," said Chip Tolleson, a Thunderbird who consulted with ABN Mobile to develop the app, which works on iPhones and Android-basedsmartphones.

The iPhone app will even help fans find their cars in the tournament's vast parking lots and includes a car-service coupon for anyone who has had "too many Coors Lights at the Birds Nest,"he said.

There also is a 16th-hole caddy-race feature, a nod to informal wagering by fans on which of the three caddies in each group will first set foot on the 16th green. Prizes will be awarded for the most correct guesses Wednesday through Sunday.

PGA Tour spokesman Colin Murray said the new cellphone policy has gone smoothly for the tournaments that adopted it. The PGA tested it at tournaments in late 2010, and the Honda Classic in Florida was the first tournament to adopt the new policy last February.

Murray and tournament officials could not recall when cellphones were banned at the Phoenix Open. It was not until the late 1980s that references to "cellular phones" started to show up in The Arizona Republic coverage of the tournament.

Clark said the PGA Tour recognized that many of the fans, including top executives and corporate sponsors, have to stay connected while they are at the golf tournament.

In recent years, younger fans sneaked their phones into the event, but now with the new policy "my dad can bring his phone in," Clark said.

by Peter Corbett - Jan. 31, 2012 12:06 AM The Republic | azcentral.com

Waste Management Phoenix Open puts phones in play

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