tiger woods at merion

Tight neighborhood getting used to U.S. Open

Tiger Woods was among the golfers drawing large crowds to Merion on Monday.

By MaryClaire Dale, Associated Press

ARDMORE, Pa. -- As tee time for the 2013 U.S. Open nears, the quaint Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore looks like a swanky tent city.

Huge white hospitality tents cover sprawling front lawns on Golf House Road, College Avenue and other streets that hem in the famously tight Merion Golf Club course.

''I think everyone's excited. As a neighbor it's very inconvenient, but it's a chance to be part of a tradition and to watch it firsthand,'' said Wally Smerconish, a developer renting his tennis court near the 14th tee to the U.S. Golf Association, which plans to put 30 tables there for corporate sponsorships.

Merion, a national Historic Landmark, is hosting the U.S. Open for the first time since 1981. The club has held two U.S. Amateurs and the team-oriented Walker Cup in the years since, but they were far less frenzied events.

''Two thousand people on the course is a nice walk in the park with a cocktail,'' Smerconish said. ''Thirty thousand people on the course is a logistical challenge for these guys, I'm sure.''

Local officials have been planning for several years, with ready cooperation from neighbors, local retailers and nearby Haverford College, which is lending land near its baseball fields for hospitality tents. In return, the USGA sent the college 100 passes for the four-day tournament; they were distributed by lottery to alumni, students, staff and others.

Local road closures are an issue, although neighbors who have to make it home each night have been given passes to get onto their streets. Some have rented out their homes to golfers and their entourages for amounts rumored to reach six figures, according to one local real estate agent, who, like many, didn't want the inconvenience of leaving town.

''Unless it's a number that would make me faint, I'm not doing it,'' said Linda ''Z,'' who had her last legally changed to that abbreviation, the name she uses selling high-end properties on Philadelphia's Main Line.

Beyond the neighborhood, thousands of other fans will be arriving at the local train stop or via shuttles from Villanova University.

''I'm interested to see how far they hit the ball, compared to how far I hit it,'' said Fran Steffler, 57, of Philadelphia, who endured a walk in pouring rain Friday to reach the merchandise tent, where he and a friend bought souvenirs. They have passes for Thursday, which they ordered a year ago.

Steffler marveled at the famous course as he walked down a wet Golf House Road.

''It looks tough,'' he sighed. ''Tight fairways. High rough. Bunkers that I wouldn't want to be in.''

As the heavy rain resumed Monday, the Rev. Ryan Whitley was ushering children into a daycare center at nearby St. George's Episcopal Church, which is adding to its collection plate by renting out its parking lot for security officials.

Given that interruption, the church plans an outdoor service Sunday morning at a local park. No word if any golfers will be there seeking divine help before the last round. But Whitley will be cheering for Bill Haas, a fellow Demon Deacon from Wake Forest University.

Whoever's left on the course will have to battle not just nerves, but sudden bursts of music from the bell tower at St. George's, which rings every 30 minutes.

''It's just going to be part of the ambiance at the U.S. Open,'' Whitley said.