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U.S. Open phone, PDA ban leaves some in withdrawal

Rick Brindell is so used to having his BlackBerry at his hip that he could almost feel it vibrating, even though he spent the morning Monday at the U.S. Open without it.

No cell phones, PDAs or portable e-mail devices are allowed at the Open, a rule most spectators seemed aware of, opting to leave devices at home or in their cars. Those who tried to bring their phones onto the grounds of Bethpage State Park are caught by metal detectors and made to leave them at the entrance for pickup later.

"We encourage people to leave phones at home," said Danny Sink, manager of the Open. "Concentration is huge. Conversations during a back swing can be detrimental."

Brindell, 51, of Bay Shore, is an insurance broker and usually checks his e-mail constantly. "I feel naked without my phone next to me," he said.

Being cut off from electronic communication was disconcerting. "I'm a little preoccupied," he said. "I thought it would be nice to be free. I want to be in touch."

Meagan Groneman had to resist the urge to check for text messages on a cell phone she didn't have, since had to leave it in her car. "It's very odd," said the 20-year-old college student from Smithtown. "I feel like constantly checking, but it's not here."

Groneman also had to leave her iPod behind, another device she feels incomplete without. But she got used to it. "It feels good - the disconnection," she said.

Anthony Russo, an Open volunteer, admitted to being in "withdrawal" without his BlackBerry. "I'm constantly on the phone," the lawyer said.

Russo, 42, of Melville, said he struggled with having to leave the device in his car. Near the 10th hole, he said he spent 15 minutes using one of the public telephones in tents scattered across the course. "I want to stand here all day," he joked as his fellow volunteers ribbed him about his phone addiction.

Joe Bembry relies so heavily on his BlackBerry that he was without a way to tell time Monday. "I don't even own a watch," he said, adding that he'd have to ask someone for the time later in the day so he and his son, Isaiah, 11, wouldn't miss their train back home to Montclair, N.J.

Bembry, 40, a wine retailer, said he imagines he'll have a lot of e-mails and phone calls to catch up on when he returns from the Open.

Some like Ken Klevitz, of Farmingdale, welcomed being unreachable. "We're just out of pocket probably for five hours," he said, "and then we're back in the rat race."

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