Golf-Distance-measuring devices 'much ado about nothing'
By Andrew Both
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Caddies are allowed to use laser rangefinders for the first time in a top-level tournament in this week's PGA Championship, but one caddy said the gadget's introduction will "make a lot of noise" nothing.
The devices known as rangefinders have been around for 25 years and are usually approved for amateur tournaments.
The PGA of America is hoping to speed up the game in this week's big championship, but many critics believe most caddies will continue to rely on traditional meter books, as they have for decades.
Rangefinders, about the size of small binoculars, can measure the distance of a shot to a flag, but a caddie's job is more complicated.
"It's handy to have the rangefinder, but it won't speed up the game," veteran Australian caddy Scott Sajtinac told Reuters on Monday after starting a training session with his player, 2013 PGA championship winner Jason Dufner Kiawah Island.
"You can't laser (the distance to) the front or back of the green, or transfer (the distance) water or a bunker, so we always go back to the meter book.
"I'll have the laser in my bib, but how often do I pull it out who knows."
Rangefinders were first used by professional golfers for practice rounds in 1996 when an enterprising caddy named Cayce Kerr reached an agreement with the company to sell the devices to tour players.
Kerr says 350 range finders were sold for $ 3,300 each before the end of the year.
Standing up against players who believed their status gave them a discount, he recited how three-time US Open champion Hale Irwin was trying to make a tough business.
"Hale said, '$ 2700, $ 2800, $ 2900, this is my last offer, what if I buy three'?" Kerr, who now owns C&L Imports, remembered with a chuckle.
"I said," Hale, if you buy three I'll sell them to you for 10 grand sums. He said, "That's $ 100 more." I replied, "The time I spend with you is expensive."
25 years later, rangefinders remain a useful aid in practice rounds, but have not replaced the running logs.
"It doesn't change the way a full-time caddy gets its mileage," Sajtinac said.
"We'll keep going back to the dimensional book that we know is accurate to the nearest inch. Our dimensional book is drawn to the nearest foot using a GPS satellite. We know it's just right.
"The ability to use the rangefinder is much ado about nothing."
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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