By Patti Putnicki

Not too long ago, mobile phones weren’t even allowed on the grounds of the TPC Four Seasons during the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament.  Today, with AT&T’s sponsorship and a throng of selfie-loving spectators, all of that has changed. The tournament not only encourages social sharing, but title sponsor AT&T has transformed this popular golf championship into a technological mecca—with virtual reality experiences and interactive video scoreboards to enough reliable network coverage to support a mass of in-the-moment posts.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 8.39.39 AMNetwork Coverage for the Masses

Positioned in a muddy field not far from the actual course sits a trailer-like structure crowned with antennae, containing what looks like a mass of wires and metal. But, don’t think for a minute that this is the abandoned home of a wayward mad scientist. It’s actually an AT&T Cell on Wheels, affectionately referred to as a “COW,” standing out in the closest thing Irving has to a pasture, ensuring wireless connectivity across the undulating golf course. It’s the same type of mobile cell tower the company uses during emergencies to restore cellular power. In this application, the AT&T COW, along with Wi-Fi hotspots strategically placed throughout the course, enable pics and posts; and the opportunity to capture all the random things that happen at a tournament like this—without an obstructive antennae node in site.

Virtual Reality Abounds

Back at the 2015 Byron Nelson, AT&T unveiled an “It Can Wait” simulator; a driving experience that demonstrated, in a very real way, the impact of texting and driving. This year, this communications giant has taken it to the next level with a virtual reality version, available for test driving in the AT&T Digital Clubhouse. Not only does it highlight, in very real terms, the impact of texting while driving, but now includes the impact of more seemingly innocent distractions, like glancing at directions on a GPS.

Our virtual reality test driver, a good guy (from another media outlet) with a clean driving record, took the test drive for our group. He doesn’t text and drive, but when he had the need to look at directions, all heck broke loose. His slight (luckily virtual) driving transgression was followed by a simulated crash, and, as he described it, a transition (also virtual) into heaven.

He left the simulator saying, “I want my teenage son to try this out.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 8.39.30 AMAs this amazing piece of electronics travels from sporting event to sporting event nationwide, his son will probably have the opportunity—along with thousands of other teens and parents who need a little “no distracted driving” tough love—without the tragic consequences.

On a more heart-lifting note, AT&T used virtual reality to showcase its relationship with TOMS® Shoes, a rocking company, founded by Arlington, Texas, native Blake Mycoskie. He’s also the guy who originated the One for One® business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased.  Shoes given for shoes purchased. It’s a pretty beautiful thing.

Although a huge population has purchased Toms shoes, few have walked the walk, and experienced what it feels like on the giving end of this model. AT&T is changing all of that.

To celebrate the 10-year relationship between AT&T and Toms, AT&T created a Virtual Reality Demo that enables Byron Nelson spectators to virtually “take a walk in their shoes,” and experience what it feels like to give shoes to kids in Columbia. The demo also includes a 360-degree, ‘behind the scenes’ video that lets golf-weary patrons recharge by experiencing the sheer joy that comes from doing good.

And, what could be better than that?

Golf, Giving and a Whole Lot More

Although all eyes are on the leaderboard (and the weather) this week,  AT&T is working behind the scenes to keep the whole Byron Nelson Golf Tournament experience connected.  The ultimate goal? Make sure the event is well played—and played over again through pictures, videos and memories.

And we do think this will be a tournament to remember