Of all sports, golf has the tamest of followers. Spectators whisper lest the putt should miss; good manners and grace are prerequisites. But some of the neighbors who live around the Congressional Country Club in Potomac, where the Kemper Open is being played, think the circus, not golf, has rolled into town.
For the third straight year, the Kemper has evolved into a brouhaha among nearby residents over where cars are parked. Out has gone gentility; in has come the law.
On one side are those who park cars on their lawns for easy money; on the other side are those who think parking lots next to their spacious estates are eyesores. The latter have succeeded in getting the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection to cite their neighbors for operating parking lots without permits.
The proparking property owners say it is unreasonable to enforce a little-used zoning law that prohibits operating a business on residential property. They say if the county is going to close them down and make them appear in court, then they should do the same for little girls selling lemonade on the sidewalks and families holding garage sales.
"I just can't understand why anybody would object to people parking cars on their own property," said George Petsche, whose son was parking cars on a friend's yard. "You know some of these kids plan this parking deal for months and some need the money to go to college.
"It just doesn't make sense that the county is going to make these same kids go out and have to get a lawyer. I plan to make sure this same law they're using will be enforced for lemonade stands as well as on our kids."
Meanwhile, with the closing of many of the yard parking lots, many tournament spectators have parked illegally on the streets. On the first day that the police issued citations and closed the lawns, cars lined River Road bordering the club. All were duly ticketed.
When Congressional sought permission from the county to host the Kemper Open, it had to guarantee to allow for more than adequate parking. The country club set up three licensed lots nearby, at a school, a farm and a large piece of property. And everyone agrees that those three lots would easily accommodate all of the needed parking, which has some of the home lot owners wondering if the club is behind the crackdown. But the country club does not operate the lots. The rights to the lots are sold to local parking lot operators.
The county's clampdown is a change from past policy. Previously, 24-hour warnings to shut down the lots were handed out and then those were rarely enforced. Never before has the county issued warrants for court appearances to the lot owners.
Charles Maier, a spokesman for County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, said the warnings issued the last two years were usually ignored. "It seemed to us that the time was at hand to enforce the law," Maier said. He said the law provides for a fine up to $500 and a maximum jail sentence of 90 days.
Ed Rovner, Gilchrist's special administrative assistant, said the county issued the citations because those complaining about the problem threatened to take the county to court if something wasn't done.
"This is not a crusade on our part, we're not just cruising around looking for violators, we just have been really caught in the middle of all this," said Rovner.
Jim Sanderson, 22, has been parking cars on his father's yard for about six years. He says even if the county does get around to giving him a ticket, he probably won't shut down his lot.
"With all the rain we've had, my yard is just shredded from the cars," he said. But now my yard is a mess, so yeah, I'll keep parking the cars. Landscaping isn't cheap you know."