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Dynamic in so many ways, overwhelming on so many fronts.
OK, you can almost hear the jokes forming – you know, something like technology, you can’t figure it out, but you can’t figure out how to live without it.
But then there is golf, which has been commingled with technology for as long as Old Tom was giving cut-down clubs to Young Tom. Even as many in golf embrace the concepts of tradition and history and heritage, the legacy of adapting to technology cannot be overlooked.
Consider the golf ball. Once made of wood, then feathers, technology has brought us better and brighter – the gutta-percha, the Haskell, the balata, then Surlyn with either two-, three-, or four-piece covers.
Consider the club with which you hit the ball. Once made of hickory, soon they were presented with steel shafts and then graphite. Persimmon heads gave way to metal and it was only as recently as 1991 when the Big Bertha arrived; what was so massively large at the time, now seems so small.
But that is what technology does. It presents today with a different look while not disturbing the foundation on which yesterday was built. Thus, do we have rangefinders that lock a laser onto a flagstick to give yardage, or launch monitors that measure ball speed and spin rate, or ShotLink that informs you of every shot during a PGA TOUR tournament so you can sit in your home and follow your favorite player.
“The technology keeps moving forward,” said film icon George Lucas, “which makes it easier for the artists to tell their stories and paint the pictures they want.”
Or, in the case of golf, to tell the story of this game and the tournaments that are at the heart of it. It isn’t an easy task, not when the arena is sprawled across 150-200 acres and dozens of players are upon it, some of them a mystery to you.
“It’s a whole new on-course experience, a game-changer,” said Bill Scannell. “It’s easier to track players when you come to the golf course, easier to get their profiles, easier to be engaged.”
Few come more equipped to assess the merging of golf and technology than Scannell. The former has long been his passion, the latter is his professional expertise.
Having grown up in Milton, just outside of Boston, Scannell graduated from Northeastern University and for years he worked in global sales and customer operations at EMC, a giant in the world of developing and selling data storage. When EMC in 2016 agreed to be purchased by Dell in the largest-ever tech merger, Scannell became President of Global Enterprise Sales and Customer Operations at Dell EMC and thus will he be the man who will watch over the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston Sept. 1-4, the second tournament in the FedExCup playoffs.
A labor of love, yes, but so, too, does Scannell consider himself in possession of an incredible advantage at a time when newer fans are looking for newer ways to become engaged.
The Dell technology.
“We’re going to showcase a lot of our technology and while Dell sells to large corporations, we also sell to consumers,” he said. “When people come (to the Dell Technologies Championship) they’ll see the Dell technology presence. They’ll experience the tournament in real time, they’ll experience Virtual Reality with Alienware technology, they’ll have a fan experience (second to none).”
A check of the landscape would provide sufficient testimony to Dell’s commitment to golf. Dell is also title sponsor of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play, which has been held the last two years in Austin, Texas, where Dell is based. “I’ve been to the tournament and I was blown away,” said Scannell.
Clearly, company officials took ownership of the Dell Match Play. From helping to shape the 16-bracket, round-robin format; creating a fan experience with the pairings party; and establishing a warm and Austin-centric atmosphere at Austin Country Club, it’s been a home run and Scannell said he “wants to replicate” that at the Dell Technologies Championship.
There is also Dell’s involvement with TopGolf, which is an emerging golf experience that a new generation of fans are wrapping their arms around. Call it a driving-range mentality that meets technology, TopGolf is pure entertainment – drinks, dinner, social interaction – with golf as a backdrop. You hit out of your own bays toward targets with the speed, trajectory and landing tracked by Dell chips inside the balls. The data is stored in a cloud to enable for games and scoring.
TopGolf hits on a lot of the target points for introducing a younger generation to the game and Dell is on board – “serious innovation behind serious fun” is the slogan used. So, too, have the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour formed a strategic alliance with TopGolf Entertainment.
Scannell sees the benefit to all of this. He has also seen the Dell Technologies Championship since it was born in 2003. Back then it was the Deutsche Bank Championship and EMC a founding partner. In 2011, EMC raised its commitment to be a local presenting partner, and there was “always an interest” in becoming title sponsor should the chance arrive, said Scannell.
That opportunity has presented itself and Scannell is thrilled. Partly because he loves Boston and loves golf, yes, but also because Dell will have the opportunity to showcase its commitment to golf and the technology that he promises will enhance the fan experience.
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