June 2002

The Open.

From the ferry to the rain to even the Long Island traffic. So much fun.

First, the ferry. From New London, CT. We were expecting the normally tranquil hour-and-20-minute crossing to Orient Point, Long Island. It was after all, a Wednesday afternoon on a murky day. We were the first car to load, and were directed up a side ramp to an elevated level above the lower deck. A bit dicey as there were but narrow rails to the left and front as we pulled up as far as possible. We then found a booth inside since the weather had taken a rainy turn.

Soon we noticed a few kids around. Then more. And more and more. A woman with the group next to us explained there would be 319 middle-schoolers on board. Along with around 100+ chaperones. Seems they had been on a day trip to the Mystic Aquarium. So within moments, every available seat was taken, and a cacophony of noise replaced the calm. Ah well. A woman asked if she and her husband could share our booth. We enjoyed talking to them (when we could hear them)— they were returning home after a visit to Foxwoods.

We wondered how we'd get off the high ramp back off this narrow thing? Nope. After a long wait for all the kids to debark, the ramp was lowered, and we drove forward, onto Long Island. (I was reminded once again of how beautiful the eastern end is — a return trip is in order.)

We were there for the U.S. Open — Thursday and Friday rounds. It was held at Bethpage Black, a public course in Farmingdale. We had to park at Jones Beach and be shuttle-bused to the course. I hadn't been to Jones Beach in decades; as a kid living in Glen Cove, then on family vacations to Great Neck to visit my grandparents, we would go to splash around and dig for sand crabs. Unfortunately, my return came on a gray, cool day. But it was good to see the tower again (picture at top).

This year security was tighter than usual, of course. In the past ('95 and '97 Opens) I'd snuck my camera in. This year I decided it was not such a great idea in that we would be searched a là airport security. A great frustration for me is being without a camera at an exciting place. Deal with it, I kept telling myself.

Thursday we followed Phil Mickelson's group for several holes and saw most of the scenic course. Also saw Tiger on a few holes, though that took more effort to be in the right place and wait, or run ahead and anticipate. It's amazing the size of crowds that follow him; there are distinct "types" that are drawn for the same and different reasons. Here's my take, which you can take or leave. One, the traditional golf fan, amazed by his talent and loving to watch him. Two, an older generation, usually black men, curious to see this phenom and proud of his accomplishments. Three, parents with young children, wanting them to see this young star, and hoping something of his example rubs off. Four, the groupie girls, dressed in tight clothing, heavy makeup and ridiculous shoes, hoping for what?? Five, a general group, some polite, some rowdy, who just want to say they've seen Tiger. Fascinating to watch.

Friday was a problematic day, starting with getting to the course. The weather was rainy and miserable, and traffic followed suit. Crawling along different expressways and local roads we finally got back to Jones Beach, then to the Open. Dodging above and below 40,000 umbrellas, slushing through mud, slip-sliding on hillsides, sitting on wet bleachers, struggling to stay dry and warm. Sound like fun? It was!

Most of the players didn't seem to think so, though— it was a tough day to be out; but as the crowds thinned, we were able to get close to some interesting shots. Our favorite place to be positioned is directly behind the tee box. Watching how these guys can hit the ball, so long and straight (usually) from that vantage point, is pretty thrilling. I recommend it, if you go to a tournament. And I recommend this tournament, the Open.

Afterward, as we headed back to Queens (thanks, David & David), I used Peter's cell phone. Big deal, you say. Well, it's very rare and still novel for me to use one, and neat because: we were crawling on the Van Wyck, content with our day, and I was able to reach my brother Kurt, who was also in a car on his way home from the tournament. We hadn't been able to connect at the course, but now enjoyed comparing notes, where we were, who we saw, the fun we had.

Anyway, sans course photos, here's the only proof I have that we were there:


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