Sunny skies and smooth traffic made for a golf fan’s dream on day three of the U.S. Open on Saturday.
Officials and spectators said traffic moved well Saturday on the roads around the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton Town, an improvement from earlier in the week when drivers complained of sitting hours in traffic to get to the tournament. That, combined with temperatures in the 80s, had attendees like Chris and Susan Roberts of Minneapolis all smiles.
The couple had flown in from Minneapolis to see the Open, one of the last big golf tournaments to check off their wish list, which has included visits to the Masters.
“The setting is just beautiful,” Susan Roberts said.
The two were following Tiger Woods, until he missed the cut for Saturday. Then they focused on Phil Mickelson.
They will miss the championship round to spend Father’s Day with their son at home. Still, they said attending has so far been “a golf nut’s dream.”
“The majors are just really special,” Chris said. “And it’s neat to be here a day before Father’s Day, what else could you want?”
Outside the course, the roads were dotted with signs offering parking at local homes and business for $20, $30 or even $50.
Traffic crawled near parking hot spots but otherwise flowed smoothly during the day.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said attendance levels reached roughly 31,000 on Saturday, the largest crowd of the week.
So many attendees relied on the Long Island Rail Road to get to the tournament that, by 9 a.m., the parking lot at the Patchogue station was full for the third day in a row. And a high number of riders caused 20-minute delays Saturday morning for LIRR trains heading to the temporary Shinnecock Hills station.
Officials had predicted traffic would move well this weekend, even though the final and championship rounds were expected to pull in a more massive crowd. Officials say they have seen daily improvements in traffic speed and patterns since they were forced to redraw traffic plans in response to drivers’ complaints.
“Everything has gone on without a hitch,” Schneiderman said.
Steve Hatch, 48, of Sahuarita, Arizona, had no complaints. He drove with his son Caleb from the Port Jefferson ferry to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach in order to catch a shuttle bus to the Open.
“The drive wasn’t bad,” said Hatch, who got an early start at 6 a.m.
Caleb, 8, is an avid golf fan, having played since he was 2 years old. Hatch said his son has collected more than 200 golf balls from different golf events.
The two were hoping to get a chance to meet some of the players.
“It’s going to be a little [hard] to interact with them today because it’s a major and they’re more focused,” Hatch said.
Spectators gathered in the shade wherever they could find it, from the sides of grandstands to fan services tents. A breeze picked up as the day went on, a relief for fans but a new challenge for the players.
The crowds, moving about the course in pastel polo-shirted clusters, were tame and spoke in hushed tones.
After all, Santa Claus was watching. By day, he goes by Wayne Wunschel, 66. Wunschel, of Marion, Iowa, is a professional Santa Claus and golf fan.
He signed up as a volunteer for the chance to watch a major tournament in person and delight a few kids along the way. About 1:30 p.m., he swapped his striped volunteer polo for a mint button-down shirt with surfing Santas and a Boston Red Sox Santa hat.
“We don’t get the Golf Channel in the North Pole, so I had to come here,” he said.
With Deon J. Hampton and Janelle Griffith
Sunday trains to and from the U.S. Open
Eight eastbound trains leave Penn Station to arrive at the Shinnecock station between 9:03 a.m. and 2:03 p.m.
Eleven westbound trains leave Shinnecock station to arrive at Penn Station between 10:21 a.m. and 11:43 p.m.
For departure times and stations, go to: web.mta.info/lirr/shinnecock/US-Open-Brochure-2018.pdf