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Recession is barely evident as U.S. Open fans shop

They snapped up $28 hats, $5 black golf balls, $30 T-shirts, $2.70 tee markers and stuffed them all in cellophane bags as they hurried out of the huge merchandise tent Monday at Bethpage State Park, home of this year's U.S. Open.

If the U.S. is in a deep and mournful recession, it barely showed at the tent, where there are some 500,000 items - pants, shirts, hats, shoes, golf equipment and more - for sale all this week.

Joseph Cortez of Kings Park, and his 6-year-old son, Joe, rang up $270 at the cash register, carrying out two Windbreakers, a Christmas ornament, an umbrella, a tee shirt, two golf tees and a bag tag.

"We're going to get killed by mom for this," Cortez said. He said his wife just lost her job at a law firm, and has started with another, smaller firm. The family, he said, just bought "a big new house" in Kings Park.

"Money's tight right now," Cortez said, though he did not give the recession a thought.

"Today is a special day," he said.

It was like that for most of the patrons who crowded into the brightly lit store on the first practice day before championship play begins Thursday.

Mary Lopuszynski, director of licensing and marketing for the United States Golf Association, said she was "pleasantly surprised" by the pace of business Monday.

"Sales are going well across the board," Lopuszynski said. "The U.S. Open hasn't been here in seven years. Most people figure, who knows when it's going to come back again."

To be sure, there were those counting their money.

Jason Furlani of Brooklyn decided on a $16 Bethpage State Park flag for his daughter rather than the $32 flag. But at the last moment, he said, he bought a T-shirt.

"I said I would splurge," Furlani said.

The Brooks family of Dix Hills and the Montes of East Northport were out spending - $200 for the Brooks family and about $160 for the Montes.

"It's a day of enjoyment," Roxanne Brooks said,

Susan Greene of Troy, Mich., an author, was selling her children's books that teach reading through golf. The " ABC's of Golf" was going for $17, and "Junior Golf Journal" for $28.

Greene has sold books at other golf tournaments around the country, she said.

"Sales are going well so far and I'm expecting a good week," Greene said.

John A. Solheim of Phoenix spent more than $75 in the store on teddy bears. He said he did not give the recession a thought. "I've got six grandchildren and another on the way," Solheim said.

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