News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 27, 2010

On and Off the Course: Technology adds even more fun to the course

By Jennifer Myers
Tribune-Star Correspondent

TERRE HAUTE — You’ve hit a drive into some brush in an area marked as a hazard, but you can’t find the ball to prove it is there.

And no one actually witnessed it go in the hazard. You just think that’s where it probably is. What is the rule for this situation?

Well, if you don’t happen to carry your Rules Of Golf book with you, there’s an app for that. The App is available for iPhone, iTouch, Blackberry and Android. If you are an iPhone user, you could have kept up to date with the latest scores and happenings with the 2010 U.S. Open App.

Those are just a couple of ways that golf is different today than 100 years ago — or even 20 years ago. Modernization of clubs, shoes and balls are obvious differences. Another huge change that has come in the past century is television coverage.

The first U.S. Open to be televised was in 1974 when KSD-TV St. Louis showed it locally. In 1953, the Tam O’Shanter World Championship near Chicago was the first nationally televised golf tournament and that was because the owner of the club paid ABC to televise it!

George S. May began hosting tournaments at the Tam O’Shanter C.C. in the 1940s. In 1953, the purse for his championship included a winner’s share of $25,000, an unheard of sum in those days. It exceeded the total purse of every other event on the PGA Tour. The excitement created by those dollars, plus the fact that May was willing to pay ABC, was enough for the network to decide to televise the tournament.

The advent of TV coverage has changed the professional game entirely, creating sponsorships and purses that professional golfers in the early 1900s couldn’t have fathomed. One of the downfalls of golf being on TV is that there have been times when players were penalized because alert viewers recognized a rule violation and called it in.

The one I remember best was when Craig Stadler used a towel to keep his trousers dry when he had to make a shot from his knees in Saturday’s round of the 1987 Shearson Lehman Brothers Andy Williams Open at Torrey Pines. PGA officials at the time didn’t notice the violation, but viewers who had seen the shot on NBC Sunday replays, called it in when Stadler was on the 17th hole. If the violation had been noted on Saturday, Stadler could have assessed himself a two-shot penalty before signing his scorecard. Instead, he was found guilty of signing an incorrect scorecard with the penalty being automatic disqualification. The error cost him $37,333, what he would have made for a second-place tie.

An innovation believed to be “modern” by golf’s standards is the electric golf car. Although its invention and subsequent popularity hasn’t changed the professional game much, it has brought huge changes to the amateur game.

The electric golf car was first produced in 1951 by a company called Marketeer. By 1954, E-Z-Go and LEKTRO also were building golf cars. Think a moment about the prevalence of golf cars now and the virtual absence of caddies in the casual game. Then imagine a time when you either had a caddie or you carried your clubs. How many of you wouldn’t even play the game if it weren’t for the electric (or gas-powered) golf car? Probably quite a few. I haven’t found any statistics to verify it, but the invention of the golf car probably did a lot to increase the popularity of golf while putting a lot of young caddies out of work at the same time. The addition of the cup-holder had to have a hand in its popularity too.

A much newer innovation helping the amateur golfer is the GPS device. Many courses now have golf cars equipped with these devices and there are also many hand-held devices. They aren’t quite the same as having your own caddy, but they certainly help with decision-making in the game because they take the guesswork out of one element, distance to the hole. They don’t take into account wind or elevation, but they help a lot.

I’d much rather have a good caddy, if I were playing in a tournament, because a GPS device can’t read putts and it can’t rake traps.

• • •

Quote of the Day — “Golf is a funny game. It’s done much for health and at the same time has ruined people by robbing them of their peace of mind. Look at me, I’m the healthiest idiot in the world.” — Bob Hope.

Upcoming events — The THWGA Women’s City Golf Tournament will be July 23-26 at Rea Park.

• The THGA Mini-City will be July 10-11 at Hulman Links.

• The Junior City Tournament will be July 13-15 at Rea Park and Hulman Links. Sign up in either pro shop.