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Officials: Tight security, crowds par for course at U.S. Open

The 200,000 ticket holders expected to pass through the gates will be screened for explosives and weapons, officials said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Sunday talked about the traffic and safety initiatives for the 118th U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. (Credit: Newsday / Vera Chinese)

Lengthy travel time and tight security upon arrival are expected for those attending the 118th U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club this week, a trade-off for safely accommodating more than 30,000 people per day, officials said Sunday.

Southampton Town, Suffolk County and law enforcement officials have been prepping for more than a year to make sure things run smoothly at what they referred to as the “mini-city” — a complex featuring temporary asphalt walkways, landscaping and large air-conditioned tents — which has sprouted up at the site.

“We want residents to understand when they come to enjoy the U.S. Open . . . that they will be safe and secure,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference at the Southampton golf course.

Hundreds of police officers from various departments will be stationed each day at the course in addition to private security, Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said Sunday morning.

The 200,000 ticket holders expected to pass through the gates from Monday through Sunday will be screened for explosives and weapons and will be barred from carrying in large bags. The list of prohibited materials is long and includes food, noise-making devices, tablets, signs and selfie sticks.

Additionally, Southampton Town has banned the use of unapproved drones in the area as a safety precaution.

“We have a very strong perimeter here,” Skrynecki said after the news conference. “We don’t think there will be any ability to get to the course without going through security.”

Still, he encouraged visitors to report any suspicious activity to a tournament official.

As far as travel, the Long Island Rail Road may the best bet for those arriving from the west, according to LIRR president Phillip Eng. The agency will double its service along the Montauk line for the event and the U.S. Golf Association has financed a temporary train platform and pedestrian bridge near the course.

An estimated 2,000 customers will use the train Monday and Tuesday with that number growing to 9,000 for Sunday, the final day of the tournament, Eng said. Three days of practice rounds are scheduled to begin Monday morning.

“Quite frankly without mass transit . . . we might not be standing here today,” Eng said during the news conference.

Those who are driving will find complimentary parking at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach where they will board a 25-minute shuttle to the event, Bellone said. There will also be parking at the Hamptons Classic showgrounds in Bridgehampton.

Officials warned anyone who gets too close to the rough to perform a thorough tick check as a precaution.

On Sunday, several shoppers headed to the event’s merchandise tent to take in the sights before the crowds expected Monday morning.

The 37,000-square-foot tent has been stocked with more than 400,000 pieces of memorabilia including rows upon rows of pastel-colored Shinnecock Hills branded golf clothes. Organizers said they hope to sell most all of it by week’s end.

“It’s crazy during the tournament so I knew to come ahead,” said Bob Brooks of Amityville, who attended the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in 2009 and plans to attend this year’s event. “And I’ll definitely do the train, without a doubt.”

Despite the masses, officials said they were happy to welcome the prestigious event, also known as golf’s ultimate test, to the East End

“Basically the eyes of the world, 80 million people, will be watching,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “A week from today we’re going to have a champion. It’s all going to happen here in the great Town of Southampton.”

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