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Parking For U.S. Open: Four Days Of Golf, Two Years To Plan

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Signs for private parking right outside the entrance to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. (For the most part, the masses won't be parking here, but at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg.)
Matt Bush
Signs for private parking right outside the entrance to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. (For the most part, the masses won't be parking here, but at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg.)

Emil Wolanin, chief traffic engineer for Montgomery County, saw firsthand what the open can do to a congested area when he attended the tournament two years ago at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, in New York.

Wolanin and other county officials went to that Open to get a head start on preparations for 2011. Rainy weather marred that tournament, and taught Wolanin and others the importance of parking.

"There was a lot of mud, a lot of wet fields that parking was on," he says. "The USGA looks for paved parking. If you lose the field, you lose the ability to park people."

That's why the main public parking lot for next week's U.S. Open, Crown Farm in Gaithersburg, was laid with crushed stone to prevent the problems seen on Long Island. The lot that was used the last time the U.S. Open was at Congressional is now the Universities at Shady Grove.

Parking becomes vital especially in the D.C. area for the Open, which is a rare event where driving, as opposed to Metro, will be the preferred method of transportation to the event.

Wolanin says that won't be the only change from 1997. There will be more people in attendance here this time around, but not necessarily fans.

"What they call the 'outside-the-ropes' footprint," he explains. "The media, the concessions, the corporate sponsors -- all that has about doubled since 1997." Hundreds of employees and volunteers are being shipped up to Congressional for the event. Predicting the event's attendance is difficult, but officials in California estimated that 275,000 people attended last year's tournament in Pebble Beach, Ca.

But the man most responsible for golf's increased popularity since then -- Tiger Woods -- won't be there. He decided this week not to play this year because of injuries to his left leg.

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