Weather Outlook Improving, But Still Tough Footing: I took a walk around Oakmont Country Club this morning and while the sun and the wind are rapidly drying out a course that was dumped with over three inches of rain in the previous twenty-four hours, the spectator areas are still a bit slick and treacherous. That hasn't kept golf fans from flocking to the historic course outside of Pittsburgh. There will be plenty of action for them to witness, as the half of the field that failed to start their rounds yesterday will play 36 holes today. After initially planning to get the other half started on their second rounds later this evening, the USGA decided to postpone any further play by that group until tomorrow morning. After determining the cut, the third round will be played Saturday afternoon, with threesomes going off the first and tenth tees in an effort to get the tournament back on schedule for Sunday morning. It's an incredible tribute to the grounds keeping staff at Oakmont that there is still any chance of accomplishing that goal.
After starting play early this morning to complete the round they weren't able to finish last night, the plan would initially had those players teeing off as late as 9:00 pm tonight to get their second rounds underway. The first group I thought of that would be especially inconvenienced are the caddies. I was able to catch up with a couple of them before they left the course this morning. In addition to getting their reaction to the play of the competitor they are carrying a bag for, I got a couple of great stories. Patrick Wilkes-Krier, who was chronicled in a Golf Channel story earlier this week, has one of his former students on the bag. David Szymanski plays collegiate golf at Robert Morris College and prior to that attended Kendall Academy, where Wilkes-Krier coaches. Szymanski was very pleased that there would no more golf for him today and was a little disappointed that his player's opening 78 makes a strong round tomorrow morning necessary if he is requred to make a second trip around Oakmont with a bag on his shoulder. But I asked the young man how he was enjoying the experience, and since he has aspirations of playing golf for a living, David indicated it was an wonderful opportunity to see what it takes to play golf a high level. I wish him success.
Brian Hughes, a Latin American Tour player who is currently 113th on their order of merit, is caddying this week for his fellow competitor Mike Miller. Both entered local qualifying, with Miller getting through to the sectional and Hughes coming close, with alternate status. They both made the trip to Summit Hill New Jersey, but no one dropped out, so only Miller played. He ended up qualifying, and Hughes is on his bag. After playing well in round one, Miller was able to post a two-over 72, putting him in position to contend for the cut. When asked if he was pleased with their day being over, Hughes didn't hesitate with an affirmative answer. If they have to go 36 tomorrow, he said he'll just stay with it. After all, his guy will have made the cut in the U.S. Open. Of course, Brian Hughes, a twenty-five year old mini-tour grinder would rather it was him hitting the shots, but the great thing is, he always has a chance.
Instead of watching golf after talking to the caddies, I decided to check out the spectator village located behind the second green and third fairway. For an avid golf fan, it resembles something more like a theme park in Disney World, maybe going by the name of USGA Kingdom. The centerpiece of the place is the massive merchandise tent, if you can call it that. According to Kaitlin Casey, one of the managers, they will sell over half a million pieces of logoed merchandise during the course of the tournament. I attempted to get an estimated overall sales figure, but she declined to speculate. She did, however, provide me with a few details. The "tent" took from April 18 to May 1 to construct, and the next two weeks were spent assembling and placing fixtures. Beginning around Memorial Day, merchandise arrived daily. By last weekend, they were up and running, and Monday morning the whole dismantling process begins. For those of us that have any retailing in our past, that might just be as big an accomplishment as Dustin Johnson driving the 17th green.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. Tune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.