U.S. Open Championship bears down on Bethesda
Neighbors get ready for golf tournament that is expected to bring 250K people
As the countdown to the biggest golf event in the country ticks closer, Bethesda residents are bracing for crowds, cars and clubs.
The U.S. Open Championship at Bethesda's Congressional Country Club is expected to bring at least 250,000 visitors to the area June 13 to 19. The River Road club hosted the championship in 1964 and 1997, as well as other tournaments such as the AT&T National golf tournament hosted by Tiger Woods.
For nearby residents like Patricia Morrison, a veteran of the last U.S. Open stint in 1997, there is no comparable experience.
"It was great fun, no doubt about it. Everything was turned a little topsy turvy in our little Montgomery County world," said Morrison, who lives within walking distance of the club in Bethesda.
Residents, schools and businesses will need to be prepared for increased traffic, said Morrison, who is also assistant head and director of institutional advancement at Norwood School.
Luckily, the championship falls between the end of regular classes at Norwood and the beginning of summer session, Morrison said. The school sits across the street from Congressional, and its parking lot will serve as a taxi drop-off area. She declined to say the financial benefits Norwood will receive from the arrangement.
"At Norwood it is not nearly as disruptive at it might otherwise be," she said.
Morrison expects some of her neighbors to go on vacation during the tournament and has seen signs advertising houses for rent to U.S. Open visitors.
Most people who live near the big Bethesda golf clubs are used to coping with the hubbub large tournaments bring, said Lucy P. Wilson, general manager of Avenel Community Association.
"The residents of Avenel are no stranger to dealing with golf events," Wilson said. Encompassing 900 homes behind Congressional, many residents are club members there or at nearby TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm golf club, she said.
The top concern for residents is traffic, but Wilson has been impressed with the support they have been provided.
"There's been a very great collaboration of the county, police, and the USGA, to basically take the needs of the community into consideration, minimize impact," she said.
Montgomery County Police will devote approximately 300 officers to public safety and traffic enforcement during the U.S. Open, spokeswoman Officer Rebecca Innocenti said. The event will not affect the police department's minimum staffing levels.
Temporary "no parking" will be set up along neighborhood streets surrounding the course, she said. Vehicles left in those zones will be ticketed and possibly towed.
Private homeowners who obtain a permit from the Department of Permitting Services may rent their driveway for visitor parking, Innocenti said. Police are recommending that residents do not rent their driveways because of the increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic it would bring to neighborhood streets.
On Monday, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), local leaders and members of the hospitality community launched the "We're Open" hospitality campaign aimed at boosting the economy during the championship.
A discount card is available for visitors and restaurants for deals at participating businesses during the month of June. The cards will be distributed to residents and U.S. Open visitors and are available on the county's website, www.visitmontgomery.com.
When Fritz Hirst attended two days of the U.S. Open in 1997, he skipped the traffic by riding a shuttle bus to the event from his home in the District. He paid $50 for his ticket in 1997, and is still wavering on if he wants to spend at least three times that amount to attend this summer.
"So I may just watch it at home," said Hirst, who now lives in Chevy Chase.
For those who make it inside the gates, prepare for a lot of standing under the hot summer sun, throngs of spectators and extra security for VIP guests, Hirst said.
His advice for this summer's attendees is to be prepared for a long, fun day of watching golf's greatest compete in the biggest event of the year.
"Allow a lot of time to get there and plan on taking some time to get home as well," Fritz said. "Dress very comfortably and have plenty of sunscreen."
-Weekly ticket packages range from $450 to $1,875.
-Practice Round tickets (Monday through Wednesday) range from $50 to $250 a day.
-Championship Round (Thursday through Sunday) tickets range from $110 to $385 a day, with an increased price Saturday and Sunday.
-Children younger than 12 may be admitted free with an adult ticket holder. Children 13 to 17 may be admitted at $15 for practice rounds and $35 for championship round with an adult ticket holder.
-To buy tickets visit www.usopen.com.
-Parking is available at the Montgomery County fairgrounds and Crown Farm property in Gaithersburg and a free shuttle will take spectators to the main admission gate.
-Transportation Management Services Inc. is running a shuttle service from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station in North Bethesda to the Hole Five admission gate. Shuttle passes are $8 a day or $35 a week. Reservations must be made at www.tms-llc.com/usopen/ or 800- 437-7629.
-The passenger, taxi, and limousine drop off area will be located off Bradley Boulevard in the parking lot of Norwood School.
Things to know
-Cell phones cannot be brought on a shuttle bus or through any admission gate.
-The championship has a "no autograph" policy for players.
-Personal cameras and camcorders are only allowed at the course Monday through Wednesday.
-Discount cards for local stores, restaurants and hotel are available at www.visitmontgomery.com.
Source: U.S. Open 2011 Spectator's Guide, website