SBJ/Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Senior PGA may allow cell phones

The PGA of America is planning to permit spectators to bring mobile phones on site during the Senior PGA Championship in May and, if all goes well, it could allow them during the PGA Championship in August as well.

“The move to mobile is really about our culture being so 24/7 connected,” Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America, said last week during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. “Everyone is connected to family, children, work, and that’s what is driving it.”

Steranka will take the mobile phone proposal for the Senior PGA to the board of directors next month for approval. He said he will recommend that the board accept the use of mobile phones on the course “with an eye toward allowing them for all events.”

The PGA Tour has previously banned mobile phones from the grounds of events for fear of causing disruption of play. But it has been experimenting with the use of mobile phones on the golf course since last season and has two more test tournaments this spring before deciding whether it will create a policy allowing them for all events.

Tournament organizers on the PGA Tour have said they expect the policy to be approved by the summer.

The Senior PGA at Louisville, Ky.’s Valhalla Golf Club will be the first PGA of America event to allow cell phones during competition, if the board approves the new policy.

The PGA Championship could be the first major championship to support the use of cell phones during competition.

Steranka also said the PGA of America hopes to have a fourth patron sponsor signed in time for the PGA Championship in August. Patrons are the highest level of PGA sponsors and include American Express, Mercedes-Benz and RBC.

The telecommunications category is “the lead category,” Steranka said. “Between mobile and personal computers, that category is looking a lot different than it used to, but we believe it will be somewhere in there.”

PGA of America sponsors have significant media buys for the PGA Championship rolled into their deals, and they account for nearly 50 percent of the ad inventory on CBS’s broadcast. The addition of a fourth patron sponsor would push that figure over the 50 percent threshold, Steranka said.

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