Cellphones convenient for U.S. Open spectators, nuisance for officials

Cellphones proved handy for spectators roaming Chambers Bay on Thursday, but for golf course officials they were an added nuisance.

This is the first year the USGA has allowed attendees to use their phones while on the course at the U.S. Open. But with that comes a new factor for those trying to enforce the USGA’s no photo or video rules.

Fans loved the real-time scoring updates and player locators on the USGA’s U.S. Open mobile app. Scott Schmitz’s eyes were glued to his screen during his walk toward the ninth hole. The Edgewood resident and his nephew said the app was perfect for getting oriented at a golf course with such a “unique layout.”

Some people were sneaking photographs and videos of players in violation of the championship’s mobile device policy, Schmitz added.

But Presley Page was on the case.

The volunteer who lives at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was part of a mobile device task force that followed top golfers and monitored crowds for prohibited cellphone use.

Page said she and about five other task force members were following the group of golfers that included Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

Before Mickelson addressed the ball near the ropes at the ninth hole Thursday, task force members yelled “No photos! No videos!” As Mickelson prepared to take his shot, the task force walked up and down watching for offenders.

There were quite a few trying to get around the rules.

“It’s kind of like a game,” Page said. “They wait until you’re not looking to snap photos.”

People using phones in violation of the USGA’s policy will be tracked by having their tickets scanned, Page said; repeat offenders could lose their ticket privileges.

The task force planned to be lenient in the beginning, she said, but once it doled out enough warnings, people would face consequences.

Spectators should know better, fellow task force member Matthew Kinnick said.

“There are signs everywhere,” he said.

But the task force was nowhere to be found as a half-dozen people snapped photos of Mickelson teeing off at 18 later in the day, prompting caddies to yell at spectators to put their phones away.

For this event, the course is equipped with Wi-Fi and charging stations to aid people with proper use of their devices.

Earlier this week, Brent Atkins of Portland was waiting for his phone to finish charging at one of the two charging stations, located in Spectator Square.

Fans choose a kiosk, pick a numbered box, pick a pin and leave their phones for about an hour.

Atkins said it was a great service.

“I was surprised to see them,” he said. “It’s super easy. I would recommend it.”

Cindy Gokey of Federal Way had her friend, Karen Heinz of Covington, pick a box for her after her phone battery appeared to drain unusually fast.

That made it a challenge to retrieve her phone later, but she eventually found it with a nearly full charge; she had less than 10 percent battery life when she dropped it off.

Gokey highly recommends U.S. Open attendees use the charging stations, but “make sure you know the code, the box and the kiosk,” she said.

Heinz said she was pleasantly surprised that the service was free.

“I was willing to pay,” she said.

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