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Pro golfers, crews working to get ready for Open

As 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera walked toward the 17th hole at Bethpage Black, he stopped at a cart path where trucks laden with supplies were waiting for him to cross.

Playing traffic cop, the Argentinian golf champion waved them by with both arms.

"Thank you!" a surprised driver said.

Professional golfers and U.S. Open work crews shared Bethpage State Park's famed Black Course Sunday, with both making last-minute preparations before the tournament officially starts Monday with practice rounds.

Trucks and golf carts scurried across the links, carrying supplies for painters, fiber optic lines for television broadcast, and even garbage cans.

"It's going moment by moment," said Lesa Huff, whose husband, Martin Huff, a U.S. Open painting vendor from Pinehurst, N.C., was "running around dealing with last-minute stuff."

"They could call up and say, 'We've built something and need it painted.' And then we'd have to do it," she said.

Even as some pros unofficially scouted the course, there was concern about it being too wet after days of rain. A huge fan was at the 17th hole to blow dry the soggy south side of the green.

But tournament officials said they were confident the course would be ready Monday and more importantly, for the championship rounds beginning Thursday.

"I feel like we're better prepared for this Open than we have been in years past," Jones said. About today's rounds, he said: "It's a little like a fire drill. It may take a while for everyone to get acclimated."

For golfers, it was the first day of a three-day registration period, and many seized the chance Sunday to get a feel for a notoriously challenging course.

"I wanted to see the rough and see how the ball lies," pro Hunter Mahan said after playing the first nine holes.

The sight of pro golfers on a local course prompted several motorists to stop on Round Swamp Road, where it passes the green of the first hole, and snap photos.

Rich Shoglow, of Old Bethpage, parked his bike and called out to Cabrera: "Good luck!" Cabrera nodded back.

Thousands turned out for the last day of free admission to the merchandise tent and driving range. Among them were about 800 children for a free golf clinic with Mahan and two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North. Many received free tickets to practice rounds.

"We've watched it on TV before but this is the first time we'll see it in person," said Angela Maresco, 16, a Smithtown East High School junior who wants to play college golf.

Paul DiStefano, an instructor at the City Parks Junior Golf Center in Brooklyn, brought 22 students who swarmed pros with autograph requests.

"They're too young now," he said. "Maybe later when they're older, they'll think, 'Wow, I was at the U.S. Open.' "

>>Click for the latest U.S. Open at Bethpage Black photos

>>U.S. Open celebrities and fans photos

>>Tiger Woods photos

>> Phil Mickelson photos

>>Breakdown of each hole at Bethpage Black

>>Latest U.S. Open news and videos

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