U.S. Open a muddy thrill, even for the non-country club set

     Kathy Stevenson pauses for a photo during her stroll through the U.S. Open. (Image courtesy of Joe Cox)

    Kathy Stevenson pauses for a photo during her stroll through the U.S. Open. (Image courtesy of Joe Cox)

    My husband and I are armchair golfers. We often get caught up in many of the televised tournaments, and can waste entire Sunday afternoons. So, when we received an invitation to attend the second day of the tournament with some friends, we happily accepted, but weren’t sure what to expect.

    The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.

    I came, I saw, I schlepped. It was the most fun I’ve had in ages, and I’m not even a golfer.

    It started a few weeks ago when it dawned on me that this thing, this mega-sports event — the U.S. Open — was really going to happen.

    My husband and I live a short walk away from the Haverford College campus, and the e-mail updates and information fliers from the township and the city had been arriving weekly. We grumbled a bit about the road closures and the certainty of annoying traffic jams, but it did seem a bit exciting at the same time. We watched the enormous hospitality tents go up on the Haverford College campus, and the mesh fencing that protected nearby neighborhood homes from trampled lawns. Some neighbors put up signs advertising available parking in their driveways.

    We are not members at Merion Golf Club, neither of us golfers, but we have dined there with friends many times over the years. There are few more pleasant spots for a cocktail and dinner alfresco than the outdoor patio there, or — in winter — cozily ensconced by one of the dining room fireplaces.

    Also, for some inexplicable reason, my husband and I often get caught up in many of the televised tournaments, and can waste entire Sunday afternoons glued to one championship game or another. We are armchair golfers (is there such a thing?) and big fans of the game and the players.

    So, when we received an invitation to attend the second day of the tournament with some friends yesterday (Day 2 of the practice rounds), we happily accepted, but weren’t sure what to expect.

    First stop: shopping

    On the Sunday before the practice rounds began, part of the course — and the merchandise pavilion! — were open to the public, so we biked over to scope out the situation. I suddenly had an all-consuming desire to buy my grown son a souvenir golf shirt.

    In order to seal my claim to the title of Best Mother in the Entire Universe, it was critical that I buy this shirt, and mail it Priority Mail to him in San Francisco, whereupon he would be able to wear it when he went to a bar on Thursday night to watch the tournament, and he would be the only one with a Merion Golf U.S. Open golf shirt, and he would remember my great kindness and forethought forever. You mothers out there will understand the logic of this.

    I knew that the merchandise pavilion would most likely be a decent size, but nothing prepared me for the fully air-conditioned pavilion the size of your average Target store. I grew dizzy with the possibilities, but before I gave in to my usual OCD tendencies to examine every single shirt in the place, I grabbed one that looked cool, paid my $70 bucks and left. I didn’t want to wake up the next morning with a U.S. Open tote bag, towel set, or set of glassware.

    ‘Greens were so green’

    Then it poured Monday. There was a tornado watch for 10 hours. A friend of ours who parked in our driveway (for free) slogged in at about 2:00 splattered with mud but happy as could be.

    Every time I spoke that day to anyone, we always ended up talking about the Open. The rumors were flying. So-and-so had rented out their house for the week for a million dollars. Tiger was renting a place for about that amount, and had removed all the furniture and brought in his own. A realtor, who rented to another player, had supposedly flown the family down to St. Thomas so she could use their house for the week. I don’t even know why I cared, but suddenly this information seemed really crucial.

    Then the big morning, Tuesday. My biggest decision: what to wear. Remember, this is the Main Line — or as nearly every news story refers to it, “the moneyed, leafy enclave.” I’d seen the outfits at the Devon Horse Show, and didn’t want to look like Ma Kettle. It had to be something that would withstand extreme heat, mud, and potential downpours. I realized that nothing I owned could even be remotely considered “country club attire.” Oh well, in my next life.

    We got to Merion at about 9:30 in the morning and stayed until about 4:00. We saw so many neighbors and friends, and especially cheering — lots of excited young children and teenagers. We were sometimes up to our ankles in mud, but the sun stayed out, and there was a gentle breeze, and the greens were so green, and the Merion flag snapped in the breeze right beneath the Stars and Stripes, and we all gaped in delight as world-famous golfers strolled by not 10 feet away. And even those who wore sandals, and had schlepped ankle deep in mud didn’t complain, because … how could you? There was no better place in the world to be right then but right there in that gentle green moment, and we all knew it.

    Kathy Stevenson’s work has appeared in many major newspapers and magazines. Her historical novel “The Lake Poet” was published in 2001, and she has published two essay collections. In 2010, her short story collection “Death, Divorce, and Other Tales of Women’s Liberation” was published as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle. She received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Bennington College in Vermont. She can be reached at KASLF@aol.com.

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