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Brisk business at Bethpage in tickets, merchandise

The lines were long and the registers ringing at Bethpage Golf Course, as tickets and merchandise for the U.S. Open went on sale Thursday morning.

Patrons' cars filled two large parking lots located about a mile from the clubhouse, and an ever-growing line of shoppers had to board shuttles to the main grounds.

Tickets for the practice rounds from Monday to Wednesday were selling for $40, while the championship rounds from Thursday through Sunday were priced at $100.

For some, the 2009 Open offered a chance to make up for missing the 2002 national championship at Bethpage won by Tiger Woods.

"I was just too lazy to get here the first time and I've regretted it for the last seven years," said Roger Epstein, from Plainview. "I don't want to regret it again this year."

Anticipating a large turnout, Epstein said he only bought tickets for the practice rounds.

"I don't want to fight with the crowds," he said. "I just want to see some golf and watch them play on the course that I enjoy."

John Janicek, a St. James resident, will be volunteering on the scoreboards. But having a free pass to the championship rounds didn't stop him from spending his money in a massive merchandise tent, replete with adult and children's garb from several designers, novelty items like oversized rubber golf balls and even an art display.

"I bought jackets, dress polo shirts and some embroidered hats for my sister, brother-in-law, brother-in-law's wife, myself and my sons," said Janicek, who's roamed the Bethpage links himself, posting a 92 as his top score. He laughed when asked if there were any tips he could offer to the golfers descending on Long Island next week.

"Unfortunately, I've never played the Black Course. I was a little too intimidated to do that, so I don't think I can give them much by way of tips and pointers."

Kerry Evans said he was very impressed with the merchandise offered, and left the tent carrying three fully-stuffed bags and a newly purchased folding chair.

"It's not going to be around here again for a long time, so I bought a little bit of everything," said the Levittown resident, who's favorite item was a head cover he managed to dig up for his putter.

Neil Singh, from Westbury, is making his second trip to Bethpage for the Open and said the prices were decent for golf wear.

"I got just about everything," he said. "I got a beach blanket, golf shirts, rain jackets, golf balls, tees, money clips."

But the find of the day for him was a Nike all-weather jacket. "It was $285," he said, "a little pricey, but I'm sure I'll use it."

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