Local News

U.S. Open Gets Off To Rainy Start, Traffic Tie-ups Minimal

Posted June 16, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Before fans can hit the golf course at Pinehurst to watch theU.S. Open, they must first get through the obstacle course of traffic circling the village.

Even rain could not keep the fans away as play began Wednesday morning. The stateHighway Patrolhas set up a command post in Pinehurst to help keep the traffic flowing. At the traffic circle, a trooper is monitoring the flow nonstop. He can even stop traffic in one direction if tie-ups begin.

"When he sees a backup, he'll stop where the tie-up is and let the traffic flow," Trooper Mark Leach says. "Then he'll move around to the next road and continuously let it flow."

But the troopers are not just at the traffic circle. "We have over 100 troopers here," Leach says. "They're stationed throughout, all around Pinehurst, down on U.S. 1, 15-501, NC 73 and all around the village of Pinehurst and we'll be able to keep it flowing regularly throughout the whole day."

Troopers say the most likely place for tie-ups is near the parking areas, away from the greens. Rob Ziemba knows what they are talking about firsthand. He helps control the flow of cars around the parking lot by keeping an exact count. His projections were right on par.

"It'll be a steady flow," he said. Sure enough, by 9 a.m. 1,000 cars an hour were pulling into the lot, but the tie-ups were minimal. Fans driving in from all directions were pleasantly surprised.

"It was a real easy trip down here," said one spectator. "The police department and state troopers did a great job directing people."

People are taking shuttle buses from the parking area to thePinehurst Resort and Country Club.

By the thousands, spectators maneuvered through the traffic and poured into the resort for the first official day of the Open, an event for golf fans of all ages.

"Well, I'm an old-timePGApro, so I go to a lot of tournaments," said golf fan Bailey Glenn, who was resting up for a day of walking.

Younger fans had their own challenges. "There was a little bit less stress yesterday because it was the practice rounds, and we didn't care if she made a lot of noise," said fan Tom Hornack, referring to his young daughter, "but today people are playing for money."

While silence fell on the crowds around the fairways, greens, and tees, excitement lit up the faces of the autograph seekers.

The official word from Pinehurst is that the tournament has been sold out for a long time. However, there are scalpers around the village with tickets that will probably be sold for a lot more than face value.

Parking and the shuttle service are free, but everything else will cost you.

Here are some ballpark estimates:

  • T-shirts -- $65
  • Hats -- $30
  • Golf balls -- $55

    Hotel room quotes a year ago ranged from $60 to $5,000. Current costs are considerably less.

    Businesses are not the only ones benefiting from all the fans, a local bi-weekly newspaper is donating its sales to a local charity. The Pilothas been planning for the Open for two years.

    The paper had expanded to capitalize on the tournament being played in their backyard. For this week only,The Pilotis putting out a daily edition dedicated to the U.S. Open; the special edition benefits the local Southern Pines Boys and Girls Club.

    The Boys and Girls Club sells the paper, and gets to keep the money.

    "We could have just given the Boys and Girls Club a check, but that would not have done them any good," says newspaper publisher David Woronoff. "It was much better for the kids to go out and earn it, work for it, and learn some valuable life lessons in the process."

    The Boys and Girls Club is raising money so it can move into a permanent location.