There are two kinds of spectators at the Booz Allen Classic: those who sweat outside in the 82-degree heat watching golf and eating hot dogs, and the lucky few who lounge in air-conditioned skyboxes enjoying a gin-and-tonic with their farfalle pasta and herb-crusted salmon.
There is, of course, a hierarchy to the skyboxes, as well.
The least expensive options are two giant tents shared by a number of tenants -- including the State of Maryland and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development who each paid $25,000 for a spot in the Stripes skybox, tournament officials said.
More exclusive are the residents of Hospitality Hill, who pay more than twice that to enjoy the professional tournament in the privacy of their individual tents. Hospitality Hill is occupied by such business titans as Bank of America, FedEx and IBM. This year, the Maryland Republican Party also was there.
And dominating the 18th hole is the elegant, multi-storied complex for Booz Allen Hamilton, sponsor of the event at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac.
"I call it the hotel," joked Brian Bishop, who works in the tournament's media center.
But one's place on the pecking order is no laughing matter -- and spectators became particularly sensitive about it when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) stopped by the tournament yesterday morning.
Ehrlich spent a few hours in the GOP's private tent but was never spotted at Maryland's blue booth.
"I haven't seen him," said Steve Mayer of Human Genome Sciences, who was standing by the Maryland booth. "Is he here?"
He wasn't. Security personnel said Ehrlich had not been to the tent during the tournament, though Ehrlich's press secretary, Greg Massoni, said he believed the governor stopped by Wednesday or Thursday.
"Maybe he's waiting for the last day," suggested Caroline Freaga, a security guard working at the tent.
On Hospitality Hill, guests were paying at least $500 a head to enter the Republican Party's tent -- and more for a picture with Ehrlich, GOP spokeswoman Deborah Martinez said. Martinez said 250 people attended the event, which raised $150,000 for the party.
At the Montgomery County booth, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) scoffed at the political fundraiser nearby.
"Events like this shouldn't be partisan," Duncan said. "They're politicizing this tournament, and they should be above that."
The county issued tickets to scores of business and political leaders to visit the tent. For most of the day, Duncan was the only elected Montgomery official at the booth.
The county had possibly the best location in the Stripes skybox, with its Department of Economic Development at the entrance to the tent.
"It's a very effective marketing tool," said Ruth Semple, who was staffing the booth.
Visitors received a sales pitch about how business-friendly the county is, as well as some of the free souvenirs that covered the table.
"We always debut our new items here," Semple said.
She showed off a zippered pouch that resembled a travel toiletry kit.
"This is a little -- I don't know what you call it -- a mini wallet that you can hang on a golf bag," she said proudly. "It's convenient and it has the county seal on it."
The county's guests also received a dozen tees and a golf ball.
"We always have something to give out at Kemper," she said, referring to the tournament's previous sponsor.
Don't you mean Booz Allen? someone asked.
"Old habits die hard," she said, laughing, before turning to the next guests coming into the tent.
Former Montgomery County Council member Bill Hanna and his wife, Annette, who have come to the tournament for years, said they've noticed that little of the chatter is focused on the sporting event.
"They talk about golf for five minutes and then talk for 45 minutes about anything else," Bill Hanna said before lifting up a pair of binoculars to watch a player tee off.
That's good news for David Edgerley, the county's director of economic development, who wants business leaders to chat with each other and county officials.
It's impossible, though, to quantify the economic impact of the event, he said.
"This is not where deals are done -- this is showing off the culture, recreation and amenities of the county," Edgerley said. "Business is done here, but leases aren't signed."