August 29, 2013, 10:43 AM

How the PGA Tour uses the web to confirm ticket holders

At BirdiesfortheBrave.org, it uses SheerID to verify military buyers of ticket vouchers.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

For the PGA Tour, showing large audiences of spectators is a crucial part of managing its televised events, the Professional Golfers Association says. One way it manages crowd levels is to provide vouchers for thousands of free tickets to members of the United States military and their family members.

But verifying tournament visitors who are in the military, or related to military personnel, can be a nearly impossible task, says Marc Raiken, who coordinates community outreach efforts for the PGA Tour. With more than 100 tournaments and 75,000 volunteers checking tickets, “training everyone on what to look for in a military I.D. would not be feasible,” he says.

And when tournaments are in areas with large military populations, such as San Antonio and San Diego, the task could be overwhelming, he adds. “With so many military families, we have no problem letting them all in with ticket vouchers—but we want to make sure it’s only them,” he says.

Earlier this year, the PGA Tour started using technology from SheerID, a provider of online technology designed to instantly verify a person’s military status during an online checkout process.
Costco, No. 16 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide, uses SheerID to verify military personnel on Costco.com, where it offers them a discounted membership fee for joining the members-only retailer.

SheerID’s web-hosted technology can also be used in other e-commerce settings to verify any targeted audience to which a company wants to present special offers, such as discounted pricing on consumer products to teachers or students, a spokeswoman says.

In each case, SheerID provides a data connection, such as an application programming interface, to connect an e-commerce site with a database at a separate location that can verify a shopper’s association with an organization an e-commerce site is targeting with offers. In addition to military personnel, such groups can include students enrolled in a university or members of teachers unions. An application programming interface, or API, is a set of software instructions for automatically flowing data between two software systems.

In the PGA Tour’s case, SheerID connects the golfing association’s e-commerce site BirdiesfortheBrave.org, where it offers military personnel and their families vouchers for free tournament tickets, with databases of military personnel maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense.

BirdiesfortheBrave.org features a U.S. map showing golf tournament locations—such as next month’s BMW Championship in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, IL—each of which can be clicked to view voucher details. After clicking a Download Voucher button, ticket seekers fill out a brief online form with information including branch of service, name, address and date of birth. Verification takes within seconds, Raiken says.

Once verified, ticket buyers download and print out a ticket voucher used to enter the spectator grounds of a PGA tournament. At one of the first major PGA tournaments this year to offer the vouchers through the SheerID service, the Players Tournament in May in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, the tournament verified about 6,000 military personnel, plus another 4,000 military family members, Raiken says.

SheerID charges its e-commerce clients a fee of under $1 per verification, a spokesman for SheerID says.

For ticket vouchers processed through BirdiesfortheBrave.org, ticket, ticket recipients pay a $1 per-transaction fee, which SheerID shares with military charities.

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