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Health professionals team gives relief at U.S. Open

In 10 years as a caddie, Kevin Morris has schlepped across thousands of holes of golf, a practice he said leaves him, at best, "physically OK, mentally very tired."

Morris, an Englishman who is carrying the bag of Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara, treated himself Monday to a more relaxing pursuit: a massage, courtesy of one of the 138 message therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other health professionals serving the U.S. Open's caddies, volunteers and middle-of-the-pack golfers.

The Open's health brigade was assembled by Jeffrey Poplarski, an Amityville chiropractor who also brought a wellness team to the Open at Bethpage in 2002. Poplarski said his 26 members were in such high demand that year that he decided this time to recruit five times as many volunteers - about 80 percent of whom are from Long Island.

Poplarski's team is the last line of defense against sprains, soreness and stiffness for the Open's 156 golfers, their caddies and about 6,000 volunteer workers. The caddies, golf's version of the packhorse, are the most common clientele, said Poplarski.

"Prior to 2002, the caddies didn't have a lot of amenities," he said. "They were very, very pleased."

Top-end pros have other options. Stryker Corporation of Michigan has state-of-the-art physical therapy trailers that follow the PGA Tour and are expected to arrive later this week. Many of the top pros also have their own health teams that follow them from stop to stop.

But Poplarski expects his team, which arrived Monday, to serve more than 100 caddies and 50 golfers and perform more than 2,000 treatments during Open week. Monday, the team treated some 30 caddies and 20 golfers.

Though most patients will be caddies, one volunteer said Vijay Singh, who has won three majors, stopped by for some respite in 2002.

Poplarski, who is co-chairman of the Open's caddie committee, also assembled teams for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Opens.

His crews will set up each day at the caddie hospitality center, the golfers' clubhouse and holes 13 and 15. Each volunteer is expected to work two shifts for the week, he said.

While caddies began arriving for treatment before noon Monday, the latter part of the week will of course be busier, said Diane Boone, an Amityville massage therapist. She, too, noted that the caddies tend to be thankful customers.

"They're lugging that big bag over their shoulder. It's a stress relief," she said of the treatments they get to take advantage of.

Donald Horning, a Farmingdale massage therapist who plans to spend Tuesday volunteering at the Open, said he has no illusions about helping a major golf pro get stretched out. But he wouldn't mind, either.

"It depends on who they are and their entourage. You might not see some one like Tiger Woods or [Phil] Mickelson come in," Horning said, "but you never know."

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