By RUSTY HAMPTON
An area near the practice putting green at the Country Club of Jackson will be roped off as the autograph area during the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Players are free to sign autographs at any point during Tuesday’s practice rounds and Wednesday’s Pro-Am, but under PGA Tour rules they can only sign autographs after they have finished playing on days of competition.
Tournament director Steve Jent said most of the players see signing autographs as part of their job.
“These guys are playing 25 to 30 events a year,” Jent said. “Every tournament has an autograph section set up, so it’s part of their daily week. They’re used to it.”
Spectators can bring mobile phones onto the golf course during the Sanderson Farms Championship, but they are not allowed to shoot pictures or video at any time and can only make calls at designated areas on the course, mainly near concession stands.
For years, the PGA Tour banned cell phones on the course during play and would confiscate them from spectators. That changed in 2010, and SFC tournament director Steve Jent played a big role in that change.
At the time, Jent was working for the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“We were the actual first test site,” said Jent. “My boss was on the tournament advisory committee, and he was pushing for cell phones, so I wrote the white paper for why they should be allowed.”
Jent said tournament there’s a give and take with cell phones.
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“Spectators have to realize that this is (the player’s) office,” he said. “We’ve seen where one putt can mean the difference between winning and second place, hundreds of thousands of dollars. So what we encourage the public to remember is that this is they’re work environment, and they are focused on doing well. Yes, it’s entertainment, but they have to focus, and anything that can distract them is an issue, especially on the greens and tee boxes.”
On the other hand…
“We realize that in our society now it’s so important to stay connected from a business standpoint,” said Jent. “It’s tough for a business executive to come out to the golf tournament and be away from his or her phone, texting, emails, for six to eight hours.
“We want corporate executives involved. We don’t want them to feel like they’re giving up a major accessory when they come to the tournament.”
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