SBJ/Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

ShotLink to be more portable

As the PGA Tour grows beyond any recognizable borders, it is discovering the need to advance the way it does business.

That’s already the case for Steve Evans, the tour’s senior vice president of information systems. One of Evans’ responsibilities is oversight of ShotLink, the tour’s proprietary scoring technology that collects statistics and detects trends among the players.

ShotLink has evolved over the past decade into a vital brand that services the tour’s digital needs and enables the tour to license the scoring and stats to other websites and media outlets. ShotLink data, which produces close to 500 stats and trends, has become a primary source of information on the tour’s TV broadcasts as well.

The way Evans administers ShotLink, especially when the tour is staging events overseas, as it did this past weekend and next weekend, is about to undergo a significant overhaul.

“One thing we’ve got to do is make it more portable,” Evans said. “When you think about the different events we now have in Mexico, Latin America, Hawaii, China, there are a bunch of logistical challenges getting equipment there. To the extent that we can operate with a much smaller technology footprint on-site, that will help.”

For tour events in Malaysia and China this month, the tour hires a third party to collect the data and distribute the information from its production facilities on-site.

In the future, though, Evans will move the tour to a concept he calls “ShotLink in the Cloud,” a more centralized and economical method of administering ShotLink that no longer will require the same number of assets on-site. ShotLink in the Cloud also could benefit the Web.com and Champions tour events in the U.S., as well as developmental tours in Latin America and Canada.

Putting ShotLink data in a cloud, as opposed to running the information through an on-site production truck, “has the potential to take a lot of costs out of the operation and make the logistics a lot easier,” said Evans, who added that he’s uncertain specifically what the cost savings would be for each event.

ShotLink stats and scoring are recorded by walking scorers on the course. In the current setup, scoring information is fed to the production truck on-site near the media center. Anywhere from five to 10 producers in the truck format the information and distribute it to the media center, hospitality villages and TV broadcasters.

Within two years, Evans said, the information coming from the walking scorers will be entered into a smartphone or tablet and sent straight to PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., no matter where the tournament is being held.

This new concept will make the tour office the hub of information instead of a production truck on-site. That will keep employees home during tournament weekends rather than on the road. “When you’re deploying people to all of these international sites, that’s a huge investment,” Evans said. “Soon, we’ll be able to do the bulk of the ShotLink administration from tour headquarters.”

For the near future, Evans said the Shot-Link production trucks will continue to travel to domestic PGA Tour events. Those trucks carry other equipment, such as LED scoreboards, so they have dual purposes.

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