Most of the rain that had interrupted earlier play was gone yesterday, but not before leaving enough mud to play havoc with parking and traffic at the final round of the Kemper Open golf tournament.
Mucky conditions around Congressional Country Club, host of the Kemper, and a record turnout of 35,000 to 40,000 spectators created traffic snarls that at times left streets backed up for more than three miles.
In parking lots, both authorized by the Open and on area residents' lawns, mud was so bad that cars frequently became deeply mired and needed everything from tow trucks to tractors to get free.
The heaviest flows of traffic to the tournament came around noon, just before tournament leader Craig Stadler, the eventual winner, prepared to tee off. Earlier in the morning, traffic tie-ups were just as bad because of the extremely muddy conditions and efforts to deal with them.
After the rains stopped Saturday night, PMI, the parking firm running the authorized lots, had hauled in a dozen dump-truck loads of gravel to give the lots more traction. Throughout the morning, dump trucks continued to spread gravel, which caused the shutdown of one of the main entrances to the largest lot -- in a cornfield on Persimmon Tree Road next to the country club.
"Backups all around the country club were at least three miles long," said Bob Farrell, a Montgomery County officer controlling traffic into the Persimmon Tree lot. "But when we had to close that one entrance because of the mud, people were backed up . . . down MacArthur Boulevard to the beltway. There were some people at 10 a.m. who told me they had been sitting in their car for an hour and a half."
Farrell, who worked the previous two Kemper Opens and the PGA tournament in 1976 at Congressional, said he had never seen traffic tie-ups at those tournaments that even approached the ones yesterday.
Montgomery County police said they had to abandon trying to enforce no-parking zones on nearly all of the major streets and subdivision drives within a three mile radius of the club. Hundreds of cars parked illegally on the street shoulders to avoid the $5-$8 parking fees.
Also seemingly abandoned was the county's effort to close down parking lots that were springing up on area residents' lawns. The county had threatened the property owners with court citations unless they discontinued parking, but yesterday most of the homeowners had not been ticketed and only a handful had shut down for the last day of the tournament.
Conditions in some of the home parking lots seemed especially bad. At one a car had become so mired in the lawn that a tow truck was called to pull out a tow truck that had tried to pull out a car. Eventually, as the day wore on and the sun made intermittent appearances, the mud began to dry and become packed, making driving easier.