As you read this, the US Open has come to the Western Pennsylvania town of Oakmont once more and many of the professional golfers already know if they are still in the hunt or just playing through. As adults, this is the third time we have experienced the golfing event here at the Oakmont Country Club in the Pittsburgh suburbs and each time has been very different.
In 1983, it was so easy to get a ticket to the Open that my husband Larry took my dad and his for a day of watching golf. They parked their car right next to the Oakmont Country Club and walked over, something that could only happen at the current Open if your last name is Woods.
In fact, event traffic this week has impacted the surface roads near us in a big way. One of our local shortcuts to drive north and south from home, avoiding the traffic-cramped main highway, has been clogged up with buses exiting the PA Turnpike as they shuttle people to the small town of Oakmont. Local police are directing traffic at all of my shortcuts to try to keep the traffic flowing.
Shuttle buses are also picking up golf fans who have parked in lots at a local park near us as well as at our local school parking lots. Normally the trip to Oakmont from here would take between 25 and 30 minutes, but I have a hunch it’s taking a bit longer this week. We are doing our best to stay away from the designated parking areas this week and the coming weekend.
In 1983, Larry says it was great fun witnessing how excited our fathers were to see their favorite golfers up close and personal. But weighing in on the side of too much excitement, he also vividly remembers the torrential downpour that chased everyone off the Oakmont course , but not in time to save them all from getting drenched.
Lightning -- which seems to have a real affection for golf courses -- filled the sky as the three of them searched for shelter. My dad, Harry, decided to stand under the trees, not the best place to be (Dad!) in hopes of staying drier. Larry’s dad, Bud, decided to tough it out in the open, thus leaving Larry feeling a little like Malcolm in the Middle. Who should he side with?
He is not sure now how the situation was resolved, but it must have worked out OK because they made it through the storm and joked about it all the way home, including while they literally wrung their wet socks of rain water. Funny, only after the rain let up did they realize that they were only about 30 feet from a shelter on the course, but couldn’t see it through the heavy rain.
The 1994 Open passed without us noting too much about it, except the win by Ernie Els. Guess we were too busy at the time with summer activities for young children.
Like so many things in America, this year’s event is playing very large in everyone’s lives around here, most especially to those who live and do business in the quaint town of Oakmont, population about 7,000 normally, with an additional quarter million this week. Corporations and large companies have raised tents around the country club course for wining and dining their customers so that our attempt to get general “we-don’t-know-anybody” tickets was futile. Golf fans or not, everyone wants to be seen at the Big Event, even if it’s in a crowd of thousands perched on bleachers.
By Teresa K. Flatley