Thursday, July 7, 2011

Father's Day and the US Open

The U.S. Open was in town over Father's Day weekend at the amazing Congressional Country Club.

(Bear with me, I know that was so long ago you hardly remember it happened...)

The last time the Open was here was in 1997 - Ernie Els won, Payne Stewart was still alive, and it was the early years of Tiger Woods.  My dad and I were lucky enough back then that a friend of ours gave us tickets for the Saturday round.  We drove up, sat on the 5th green all day, and saw every group come through.  I'll always remember spending that day with my dad.

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This year, knowing that the tournament was coming to town, husband and I signed up to volunteer for the tournament.  It sounded like a great deal - we were asked to purchase our uniform, had to work 4 shifts, and had full access to the tournament for the week.  We also had the option to purchase extra tickets.  Since it was going to be over Father's Day weekend, we purchased a ticket for my dad for Saturday and Sunday.  His birthday was in May, so we gave him the tickets for his birthday and Father's Day.

So, volunteering.  Here's the story.  First - starting over a year before, we received tons of communications from them.  It's an amazing production to run this tournament.  There were 5,300 volunteers throughout the week at the Open!  Emails, mailings, emails, and mailings.  We had an option to select the days we wanted to work (or rather, couldn't work) and rank the areas that we wanted to volunteer in.  I was selected for the corporate hospitality tents (hard to believe isn't it), and husband for the merchandise tent.  We had originally asked for Sunday off, so that we could enjoy the day.

Uniforms.  I have to admit, they were pretty nice.  We had to pay for them, at $180 each.  We were allotted 2 Ralph Lauren polo shirts, a really nice RL jacket, a baseball hat and metal water bottle.  The shirts were selling in the merchandise tent for $85 each, so overall it was a pretty good deal.  I'm not sure if I'll really wear the shirts, but the jacket was really nice - and I bet husband will wear the shirts.

So we each paid our money and worked our 4 shifts.  But we had free admission all week.  And good parking for the days that we worked.  However, it was hard work.  One day, husband had to play security just inside the entrance and direct people towards the exit...which was at the complete opposite end.  The tent was an amazing 36,000 square feet.  He said he got cussed out at least twice that afternoon and that it wasn't fun at all.  I worked in the biggest hospitality area - basically doing security too.  Checking tickets, giving wrist bands, welcoming people back and turning people away - and answering every question possible.  Plus denying entry to every dude's friend who had to ___ - enter lame excuse here.  We heard everything.  It's really amusing the reasons people can come up with to get into the tents!

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Friday we both worked the midday shifts and then followed a few golfers around for a couple of hours.  Our buddy Tom also volunteered that day through Greater DC Cares, so we spent the afternoon with him.  Once we got back home, Dad had arrived.  We had a great dinner at home - I roasted pork tenderloins, had roasted red potatoes with herbs from the garden (I love being able to do that!), and then my favorite green beans.  They have shallots, grape tomatoes, goat cheese, and toasted almonds on them with a delicious vinaigrette.  Print the recipe, make them.  Trust me. 

Saturday husband had the morning shift, so he went up super early while Dad and I followed a little later.  We met up in the tent and they spent all afternoon together while I had to work.  It was great for them to get to spend some time just the 2 of them - they had lunch, enjoyed a few beers, and sat in the grandstand of #15 for several hours.  My friend E and her dad were there that day too, so they met up with us once my shift was over and we spent a couple more hours watching from #15.

Sunday was perfect.  We got up slowly, enjoyed a Father's Day lunch at Dogfish Head Ale House, and drove to Dulles airport to park.  With so much traffic expected around the Open, they had this option for us VA folks.  We thought it was going to be a pain but it was really very easy.  We arrived at the course around 3, just in time for the leaders to tee off.  After a bit of last minute shopping in the merchandise tent, we were off to find our spot.

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We walked down 18...our goal was to find a good place to sit for the rest of the day.  And we certainly did.  We snagged our seats right in the center of the first, smaller grandstand on 18.  We could see where the drives were landing, watch them make their approach, and finish the hole.  We saw every group come through from Retif Goosen to Rory McIlroy.  While our favorite golfer, Phil Mickelson, had already been through, we saw some of our other popular players: Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, and amateur Rusty Henley. 

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The benches weren't terribly uncomfortable, and luckily in the shade.  The guys were whiny so I let them sit on the 2 seat cushions that we had.  It was very well run by the marshalls - they even had passes for people who wanted to go to the restroom or get a drink so they could save their seat for up to 30 minutes once it was getting close to the end.  With about 4-5 groups left, the whole grandstand decided to give 'standing ovations' to everyone...aka stand up and stretch!  It was pretty funny when we were standing for everyone, even ones who hit their shot in the water or a sand trap. 

The 22 year old made history that day as he won the U.S. Open with a 16 under par.  It was the lowest 72 hole score in US Open history.  As his father walked onto the green at 18 to give him a congratulatory hug, Rory said Happy Father's Day to him, and that it was.

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It was such a special weekend for all three of us to be able to celebrate Fathers Day together and at such a great sporting event.  I grew up playing golf with my dad, and I knew it would be very fun to be able to take him to the Open.  Spending the weekend, and especially Sunday, with my husband and my dad at the US Open on Fathers Day - it really doesn't get much better than that.

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