Cell phone issue rings in golf's ears

Gerina Piller watches her tee shot on the Gerina Piller watches her tee shot on the first hole during the third round of the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament. (July 7, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since ...

KOHLER, Wis.

Just as Gerina Piller took her stance on the 10th tee Friday, a series of odd, piercing beeps erupted only 10 feet away. A fan was getting a cell phone call. Piller did not back off or look up and drilled her tee shot into the fairway, on her way to finishing at par -- very much in contention -- through two rounds of the U.S. Women's Open.

It was a sign, and a sound, of the times. The connection between cell phones and golf is an uneasy one, and it isn't going away.

What weekend golfer hasn't been annoyed when a playing partner was yakking on the phone during a round? Some private clubs ban cell phones, to preserve the feeling of the course as a refuge. On the other hand, many golfers say they just would not be able to play if they couldn't bring their mobile devices. And the golf industry wants to keep every player it can.

Letting fans at pro tournaments bring cell phones is a thorny and fluid issue. The Masters doesn't allow them, the PGA Tour does -- only in vibrate mode and only in certain areas. Phil Mickelson is said to have withdrawn from the Memorial to protest poor enforcement of the policy (too many photos being taken). The U.S. Golf Association didn't allow cell phones at the men's U.S. Open, but is allowing them here.

"It's fine. I think even when you didn't allow them, they were still out there," Michelle Wie said. "Just take pictures but turn the sound off."

Ben Kimball, tournament director for the USGA, could not predict what the status will be at the 2013 Women's Open at Sebonack. He did say: "Cell phones are in everyday use by all of us to bring our fans closer to the game. So we're excited to see how this is going to turn out."

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Competition

Scott Ford of North Hills won the Assistants Tour Midseason Major at Paramount Country Club in Rockland County. At 1 under par, he was the only one in a strong field to break par. "I think what I did well was manage my game," he said. It was the biggest tournament on a circuit that has assistant pros spending their one day every week on some golf course. Ford, grandson of former Masters champion Doug Ford, said that is only natural: "When you're at the course all week and you don't get a chance to play much, it really gets the juices flowing."

Sunday tip

"Two of the biggest myths in golf instruction are 'keep our head down' and 'keep your left arm straight.' You don't miss shots because your head comes up. And the thought of keeping your left arm straight will only create tension and impede speed in your swinging motion. So let both arms relax, allow them to swing with freedom, and allow your entire body -- including your head -- to release to a full level finish. You'll hit straighter longer shots with greater ease."

-- Tom Patri,

PGA director of instruction, Friar's Head

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