The Congressional Country Club sits wrapped around a white, Spanish-style clubhouse at the end of a long boulevard, where golfers would look perfectly logical in plus fours. Golf is at its prettiest on an old course, and Congressional has one of the loveliest settings for a tournament.
It is also a spectator's delight. Every day of the Kemper Open, flocks of fans have wandered the perimeter of the putting green, created a permanent floating crowd behind gallery rope and occupied shaded benches along the driving range, watching the pros practice. On outdoor terraces, club members lunched, cocktailed and watched the putting green, ninth green and first tee. Wednesday night, a patio party was held after the pro-am round for golfers, spectators and all comers.
Spectators began arriving as early as 8 a.m. each day, despite the awful weather on Friday. Hitting the concession stands was first on the agenda for many. Hot dogs and coffee were sold for breakfast.
"We get the hot dog eaters as early as 8," said concession seller Kate Ferrall, 18, a college student from Chevy Chase hired for the week. "They say it's like bacon."
A golf day is also an invitation to drink a little beer. That also was on the breakfast menu for some.
"They make all kinds of excuses for drinking beer that early, like 'It's 12 o'clock in London,' " Ferrall said. "By the end of the day you get a lot of big talkers and big tippers. You start recognizing the people coming back for more. They tip a lot."
The accessibility of the driving range and putting green invited interplay between players and spectators. Adoration for the better-known golfers reached a frenzied pitch by the weekend, when the largest crowds began coming out with the break in bad weather. But even during the weekday morning rainstorms, good crowds turned out. The pro shop sold hats, caps and umbrellas by the gross.
"They're going to come out rain or not," Congressional assistant pro A.J. Duncan said. "Nothing keeps them away. They'll just sit out there in the rain."
Zealots followed golfers and caddies from the putting green to the driving range to the door of the locker room. Security guard Gary Farrall fought off the gawkers in front of the caddy shack.
"People want to come in and look in the golf bags," Farrall said. "They can see the bags with the names on them from the door, and they stare inside. They want to look at the golf balls, touch the clubs. Craig Stadler's bag is very popular."
One clubhouse employe, Jorge Castillo, was asked for an autograph. He obliged.
On the course, Fred Couples drew the remark of the week from one spectator when he hit her with an iron shot.
"Are you all right?" he asked, rushing over.
"I will be if you kiss me right where the ball hit me."
An embarrassed Couples backed off. "Where?" he said.
"Right on the lips," she said.
Chi Chi Rodriguez drew one of the big crowds for his swordfighter putting act, and then bummed cigarettes from his followers.
"I'll take any kind of cigarette," he said. "You can't play golf if you don't smoke."
One player, who shall remain nameless because of the possibility of a fine, figuratively was smoking Thursday when he missed a putt on the 18th green. As he brought the club back, a telephone in the scorer's tent rang. The player jumped at the putt and missed. He showed surprising calm as he finished the hole. Then he walked into the tent, raised his putter and began smashing the phone. He missed the cut.
One of the darker scenes at the Kemper, or any tournament, takes place in front of the main leader board. At the Kemper, it is behind the first tee, and that was where caddies and players congregated to watch the board and wait for the cut from 156 players to the low 70.
Jack Sneiderman, who runs the scoreboards for the PGA, is an expert at predicting how high or low the cut score will be. He handed down his verdict.
"Three over (par) looks solid, four over has a good chance," he told the group.
"A lot of them tell me about a putt they missed," Sneiderman said later. "Almost all of them say, 'I can't believe I missed a four-foot putt on the 18th hole.' And they miss the cut by one stroke."
A Red Cross truck sat in the player parking lot, where hosts of courtesy Cadillacs were lined up. Spectators visited the nursing station for scrapes, bruises and other ailments. Players also stopped in, for treatment of allergies or minor irritations. Second-round leader George Archer came in Friday with a sore foot.
"We get headaches, minor insect bites, upset stomachs from too many hot dogs," said Nancy Dubin, a registered nurse from Gaithersburg. "We've had a couple people come in who were hit with balls. Sometimes it's just a bruise, but if they get hit in the head we get them X-rayed."
A woman was struck by one of Lon Hinkle's shots. Hinkle stopped by the truck several times and took her phone number to check on her.