Pittsburgh: My US Open

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We had time before the airport Limo arrived on Saturday to check the Internet for US Open tickets. There were all kinds of sites offering tickets, but I couldn’t get to the actual tickets without making a commitment… didn’t want to do that. Price ranged from $5 to $750. I was looking at a Monday practice round; they gotta be available for walk-up. I hadn’t even decided to go, have to get the lay of the land in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, I checked with the concierge at the Radisson Pittsburgh Green Tree, where we were staying. There will be Shuttle buses to Oakmont from the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh — that’s one of the NAEYC conference hotels — there will be shuttle buses from our hotel to the Omni. Good. Later in the day, I was at the Omni William Penn and checked with the concierge there. He said there would be shuttle buses from there to Oakmont, but he didn’t have the details. The doorman would know on Monday.

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision over dinner Sunday night. I’ll go. I’ll catch the 7AM shuttle with Carol and catch the Open shuttle to Oakmont from there.

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A passel of women waited with us for the first shuttle bus on Monday morning. No bus. Traffic, we were told.

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We could see the road to Pittsburgh through the trees, across a valley from the Radisson, everything was creepy crawly in the direction of the city. Eventually, the bus reached our door. I was not polite — ladies first and all — or I would have been left on the pavement. Instead, I followed Carol onto the bus. It’s four miles, or less, to the Hilton and we made it in a not-so-brisk 40 minutes. By then it was 8:30.

Three small buses were waiting in front of the Omni. I asked the doorman if those were the buses for Oakmont. “Yes, but they are for USGA, not for spectators.”

“How would a spectator get there?”

“Drive,” he said. Too bad I don’t have one of them Lexus.9open_lexus.jpg

Just then, as the first bus started to pull out, a tall, thin man in shorts ran across the street, asking to hold the bus for him. I followed him. A woman with a badge checked his badge and let him on. I looked at her inquiringly and asked, “Could a spectator get on this bus, it’s not nearly full.”

She paused, smiled, “Just this one time.”

“Can I get back?”

“I don’t know,” she said. I got on and on the longish 23-mile drive to Oakmont, pondered the getting back scenarios in my mind. We went along the Allegheny River for a while on an old limited access highway, through forested rolling hills and villages with low scale brick buildings of no particular style. The town of Oakmont was larger with stately houses looming over the road. We passed into a green area of smaller roads and larger properties.

At Oakmont Country Club, we turned left into a looping driveway and got off the bus. I followed the group of seven or eight onto the hallowed ground, across a grassy patch to the well-manned entry. Ahead, up a couple steps, a tented hall bristled with security. Before the steps, there was a sign,

“Absolutely no:
cell phones with photographic capabilities,
cell phones,
cameras,
on and on.”

I had all of that stuff in my pockets, but worse, didn’t have a ticket. “Where is the place to get tickets,” I asked.

“There are no tickets, The US Open has been sold out for months,” said a brusque, official looking dude.

I said, “But the Internet…”

“Oh, sure, there are all kinds of claims on the Internet… some have tickets, some don’t, but there are no tickets here,” he said with a great deal of finality.

A man labeled ‘volunteer’ beside him was much nicer. “Did you come in on the bus from the main parking?” I mumbled something. “If you’re looking for a scalper, you might find one where you got off the bus… better yet, go back to the parking lot and hold up a sign or something ‘NEED A TICKET…’ people have extras, somebody may even give you one.”

I thanked him and walked away. I was so naive… make that stupid. I’ve been to US Opens, I’ve read John Feinstein’s book, Open: Inside the Ropes At Bethpage Park, where he describes in detail, the intense planning that goes into staging a US Open, the incredible logistics involved, not to mention ultra-tight security. If I really, really wanted to see this, I would go to the parking lot and snag a ticket. But I was here on a lark, and just a little concerned about getting back. I went back to where the bus dropped me, and stood. After a few minutes, a nice woman in shorts and an untucked white shirt, wearing a VENDOR badge, walked up, “Going back early? To Pittsburgh?”

“Yep, the Omni,” I said, “but what a beautiful day.”

“Out here early? I was here at 4:30,” she said.

“Yep.” We went on to chat about nothing until the bus came. I was the only one on the bus. I asked the driver about towns as we passed through. Now, Oakmont is an incorporated town, but Lawrenceville is a district of Pittsburgh… that’s where the Polish live. The Strip District is where the trains used to come in along the tracks by the river, all warehouses and wholesale suppliers of meat, fish, you name it. A few trains still come, but now it’s becoming a place for bars, clubs and the like.

I was back at the Omni about 10:30, walked around a bit and then went on a tour of Heinz Field, home of your NFL Steelers and Pitt Panthers. After, I had lunch at Jerome Bettis’ 36 Grille. I had seen the town of Oakmont and gazed at a bit of the course through a fence, I had enjoyed the to and the fro, and was able to check Heinz Field off my list.

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Not a bad day, so far.

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