USGA’s Katie Bynum: Teaming With Cisco Means ‘Better Fan Experience’ at U.S. Open

Tech partnership will enhance connectivity, video viewing of major USGA events

Last month, the USGA announced that it is expanding its partnership with Cisco in a new multiyear global agreement making the tech giant the “Official Technology Partner” of the USGA and its championships. Corporate-branding bumps aside, the partnership is an exciting one, promising some really cool new products and services for attendees at the 2019 U.S. Open and other USGA-sanctioned events.

What the USGA hopes this collaboration brings to fans is better connectivity at the venue of a USGA event, while also unlocking other products and services, such as live streaming and real-time highlight-video viewing.

USGA’s Katie Bynum: “We want to make sure that the fan doesn’t miss something that they might have seen on TV.

“Going to [a U.S. Open] is a bucket-list item; it’s a can’t-miss,” says Katie Bynum, managing director, partnerships and championship experiences, USGA. “But, when [fans] get there, you don’t want them to completely miss the one thing they really wanted to see. We want to make sure that we create the opportunity that the fan doesn’t miss something that they might have seen on TV. How do we help them do that?”

The USGA has worked closely with Cisco on everything from Wi-Fi connectivity to ball-positioning data for more than a decade. That also includes an acceleration of consumer-facing connectivity through content initiatives beginning in 2015, when fans were first authorized to bring personal smartphones onto the course during a USGA event. The goal is that deeper, broader use of Cisco technology will help take those offerings to a new level.

“Ultimately, what this means for us is a better fan experience,” says Bynum. “We’ve got a great network in place now, but we’re talking about expanding the network and how that better enables connectivity, [which] enables a better mobile experience onsite and what features and functionality we can put in our mobile app that we haven’t yet.”

Providing the types of in-venue experiences that many fans of arena- or stadium-based team sports have come to expect are (unsurprisingly) a massive challenge for an organization like the USGA, which deals with an expansive, outdoor venue that changes annually and is in use only for a week — be that for a U.S. Open or the U.S. Women’s Open. The issues that the USGA is addressing this winter are how these types of technologies and products can be deployed efficiently and effectively while bringing the most value to customers.

“We have live streaming and highlights through our mobile app already, but we’re talking about better connectivity through the course. You’ll be able to see all of that at any point in the golf course, and that delivers a better experience,” says Bynum. “The opportunities to deliver the fans what they want, when they want, where they want becomes more compelling and doable. That’s what everybody is trying to do.”

The potential of what might be accomplished already have Bynum looking forward to next summer’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in anticipation.

“It’s awesome to be a fan and work in the sport, but we have a responsibility to put ourselves into the shoes of the fan to make sure that we are delivering what’s best for them,” says Bynum. “What I’m most excited about is that there’s something special about the energy around going to a golf event. You can’t necessarily capture those roars or being able to talk to the person besides you whether they are friends or not. There’s a comradery, a community, and an energy at a live event that I think is still really special.”

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