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Tents entertain spectators at Barclays

The Spectator Village at the 16th whole features

The Spectator Village at the 16th whole features an Avis Skill Zone - a putting green course a mini-leaderboard and three adjacent inflatables where pros will assess a person's swing and send them a video of it with swing assessment software. The Barclays Golf Tournament held at Bethpage Black golf course. (Aug. 22, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Pars, birdies and tents?

For spectators at The Barclays this weekend, you can't have one without the other.

Golf aficionados will spend hours traipsing grassy hills to catch glimpses of pros during the PGA Tour event at Bethpage State Park -- and meandering to white tents brimming with products, activities, and in some cases, air-conditioning.

"I like golf but you don't want to sit at each hole and just watch each player go by," said Karyn Marazita, 42, of Bay Shore, who recently visited with her 6-year-old daughter, Madison, and 3-year-old son, Matthew. "Especially when I have my kids here. I have to keep them entertained."

Visiting the Spectator Village, located near the 16th hole, was a perk for her family. There, inside the Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield Wellness tent, kids learned fire safety and jumped rope. At a pint-size putting mat, Matthew hit his ball into the hole.

"Yeah! I win!" he shouted, then triumphantly thrust his mini-golf club into the air.

Such moments are what it's all about for tournament planners, who have tried to offer a mix of activities in the tents, especially for kids 18 and younger who get in free with a general admission ticket, said Sandy Diamond, director of sales for The Barclays/PGA Tour.

With days that can stretch for 12 hours after the first tee time, a tent culture has emerged at golf tournaments more so than at other sporting events.

"Just like when you go to . . . a football game with cheerleaders, or a basketball game with the dancers and fireworks going off . . . it's all about entertainment," Diamond said of the tents. "We're trying to give more value to our spectators . . . and giving them a more enhanced experience over and above championship golf with the best players in the world."

Aside from the ritzy private marquees, sky boxes and semiprivate tents, which require tickets from the companies who purchase the space, there are about 20 tents available to the 30,000 spectators expected each day through Sunday.

Spectators can compare their swing to pros like Jim Furyk at the General Electric tent or try out noise-canceling headphones at a Bose Experience tent. There's even a Brooklyn Nets bus that includes an exterior basketball rim to shoot hoops and three Wii and PlayStation 3 video game consoles.

For Mike Storch, 27, of Selden, hitting the golf shop tent was a must. Storch purchased a flag emblazoned with The Barclays logo that players Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson signed between practice rounds.

"Usually you try to pick up something to remember from the tournament," Storch said.

Kevin Sears, 43, of Manhattan, noshed on a cheeseburger and fries with an orange vodka cocktail in the Ketel One Vodka bar -- complete with faux wood floors and black leather sofas.

"It's a break from the heat," said Sears, who lounged with colleagues. "Especially with us, if it's for business, you can be with a client or associate . . . and have a place to meet and have a drink."

At the Avis Skill Zone, an inflatable structure with netting to catch golf balls, professional golfer Joe Bischoff guided Stephen Henninger on his swing.

The one-on-one, 10-minute session "softens up the environment," said Henninger, 46, of Port Jefferson Station, who has played golf for about 30 years.

"It gets you more active," he said. "Even if you're not on the course, there are still other things to do."

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