Editors' Note: Jack McCallum will be spending the week in an RV,
experiencing The People's Open with the people, and periodically sharing his adventures with us in Press Tent. See photos from McCallum's week in the RV.
BETHPAGE, N.Y. –The last time the U.S. Open took place here, in 2002, the Battle Row Park Campgrounds was unoccupied save for Frank Daverin, the resident camper in charge. "It was right after 9-11 and they were worried about security, I guess," says Frank. "Somebody–I guess the Open people–rented all the spots just so they could keep it empty. It was kind of spooky. A little different now, right?" The campsite is full, including Site 29, which is occupied by the People's Golf Writer at the People's Open. That would be me. I am now all moved in–the 'fridge is filled with adult beverages and even my underwear is put away–and I must apologize, first of all, to the tenters, who had mistakenly squatted in my site and whom I wrote about in my first post. They moved without incident to their own spot, the one without an electric hookup, and turn out to be nice people, U.S. Open volunteers, in fact. More on them later in the week.
Frank estimates that about 65-70% of the campground has been rented to Open fans. I am the only member of the media here, and Frank can't ever recall having a journalist at Battle Row. "Not that it's something I'd remember anyway," he says. Cynicism about the media, evidently, extends even to campgrounds.
Most of my brethren are in hotels as far as 20 miles from the course, whereas I, using the path through the woods, can cover the mile-and-a-half walk in 20 minutes, or about how long it would take me to reach the green on that monster uphill 15th on the Black. Curiously, though, the goings-on at Bethpage seem a world away. The locals are proud that their muni is one of the nation's jewels, but nobody feels that they have to celebrate it. Greg Jones, my neighbor and the second-in-command at Battle Row, worked for a company that repaved all the cart paths several years ago but has never played the Black even though he's a golfer. "Well, I did sneak in a couple holes one day when I was working out there," says Greg, "but that's it." Frank? "I'm a duffer," he said. "Been out there a couple times is all."
The campsite would've been full even without the Open, and, to the credit of Nassau County, which adminsters Battle Row, there was no price-gouging. The site on which sits my rented 32-foot-long motorhome, leased to me by El Monte RV (www.elmonterv.com), cost only $26 a night, same as always. County residents pay only $20. Tenters pay about $15 a night.
Neither did the golf fans staying at Battle Row rush over for the practice rounds. Late in the day, after I had returned from a cursory look at the golf, Kathy Rumberger of Norfolk,Va., part of a contingent of a half-dozen fans who are here for the tournament, stuck her head into my RV and asked, "Say, where is the course anyway?"
At that moment Frank was trying to hook up a digital convertor box that would make my TV work, Greg was trying to hook up a wireless connection that would make my Internet work, and SI photographer Simon Bruty was standing around and laughing at the People's Golf Writer needing so much help. Alas, neither TV nor Internet will work, and Bruty's efforts were unsuccessful, also, unless your definition of success involves depleting my beer supply.
But it really doesn't matter. I suspect that things will start buzzing tomorrow, but right now there is a serenity about Battle Row, where life goes on so close to the Open but seemingly so far away. People grill and sit around and chat and pet their dogs. I'm thinking about renting a dog for the rest of the week, in fact. One of the reasons that Greg, who was also a fireman and now works on road construction, decided to move in year-round to Battle Row was the peaceful atmosphere. That and the fact that there's always somebody to have a beer with. There are far worse reasons to pick a permanent address.