The Smiling Duo: Golf GameBook’s Mikko Rantanen with the British Open Champion 2009 Stewart Cink at the Royal Lytham & St Annes.

 

Mikko ‘Mane’ Manerus & Mikko Rantanen, both PGA members, will spend this week at the legendary Royal Lytham & St Annes, following The Open Championship and meeting with lots of interesting golf personalities. They’ll share their travel stories here. Here’s the first one, a long one – the rest of the pieces will be pictures and short notes.

Wonderful to be here again, last time I attended The Open Championship was 2009. It was also nice to meet with Stewart Cink – when we last met at The Open he ended up winning. I was happy to see The Claret Jug travel to the USA with him. Maybe it will happen again, I wish him all the best.

On our way here, I was discussing the many tradition of golf with my colleague Mikko Manerus. The Open Championship was first played in 1860, respectable 152 years ago, in Scotland at Prestwick Golf Club. The first year of the legendary tournament was, according to Wikipedia, like this “the inaugural tournament was restricted to professionals and attracted a field of eight golfers who played three rounds of Prestwick’s twelve-hole course in a single day.” At that time, before The Claret Jug and the juicy prize money the winner got to wear the Challenge Belt, a red belt with a silver buckle. Quite a difference to what we have now.

While many golf organizations often “protect the history of the game and traditions”, we usually discuss and vision the future of the game. For several years now the popularity of golf as far as rounds played and numbers of core & avid golfers has been declining. The golf industry in general has also been suffering. The PGA of America has a well thought out initiative Golf 2.0 in order to grow the game, which my colleague Kalle wrote about earlier, please read it too.

The Role of the Technology Innovations?

Mane and I were also discussing the technological developments in golf and how social media has and will affect the popularity of the game. We strongly feel social media will play a key role in creating more awareness about golf especially among non-golfers. Social media and especially mobile and online golf communities such as Golf GameBook will certainly grow the popularity as golf is such a social game. Social media will help to share golf experiences and the feeling of camaraderie with a larger network of people.

But in the recreational golf more than paper scorecards and the shared joy between four persons are indeed needed for the ‘survival’ of this sport.

Interestingly, some of the legendary golf players have recently been part of the events were the latest technology have played a part. We had an honor of providing live scoring and leaderboards (on mobile devices) for both Arnold Palmer’s Kingdom Cup (2011 and 2012), and Jack Nicklaus International Invitational (2010 and 2011).

We have been working hard with the Golf GameBook app and it makes me feel warm when the 2009 British Open Champion Stewart Cink said recently very kindly about it:

“I think that GameBook team’s creativity in utilizing social media and the latest technology is exceptional. Golf tournaments are fun and social, but they can be so much more with this golf app.”

Very generous of him. Ok, get to the point…what I was trying to point out is as follows:

I believe that the traditions and the new innovations can be combined – and actually must be combined – for the common benefit of the golf industry and all of us golf lovers. We need to make the golf experience more social (more than between the four guys on the course), we need to make it easier to share, to pep each other, trash talk, or what ever you like. Despite of the time and place.  Or age, HCP or gender.  I hope you agree with me.  The traditions and the future of golf must shake hands.

Back to The Open – this year, as always, we are going to have so many exciting moments. Thumbs up for my friend Stewart, and all the others as well. Very glad to see many of my golf pals and colleagues from around the world, and at the same time enjoy the historical venue and many memorable moments. There’s something magical in links golf.

Play well!

–Mikko