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Merchandising Madness

June 14, 1997

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) _ With its departmentalized look, sophisticated layout and 30 cash registers, the merchandise tent at the U.S. Open looks and feels more like J.C. Penney than a souvenir stall at a sporting event.

``Over the years, they get more and more refined,″ said Doug Lang of St. Louis, attending his eighth consecutive U.S. Open. ``It’s like walking into a department store.″

While some changes in golf may seem glacial, the USGA has no qualms about keeping up with the times in order to improve the cash flow. Items on sale include the 1997 U.S. Open Computer Screen Saver and tailor-made, laser-engraved pictures. There’s also an entire section devoted exclusively to women’s wear, featuring a three-piece golfing outfit for $248.

Vendor Pat Chapple said one of the most popular items is the $17 bag towel, with 17,000 expected to be gone by Sunday. Given the prices, it’s probably not surprising that the No. 1 best-seller was the cheapest thing in the store, the $2 ball markers. All 20,000 are sold out.

Chapple said the store expected to take in $6.5 million during the tournament.

Lang did his part, leaving the store with four bags bulging with purchases.

``This is kind of my own gift for Father’s Day,″ he said.

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JACK DEPRESSED: Jack Nicklaus started his second round in a funk over his son Gary’s failure to make the cut at the U.S. Open.

``I was really in a state of depression this morning,″ Nicklaus said after finishing his round late Friday. ``I was upset for him. Once he got here he started driving poorly, and the one thing he does best is drive the ball.″

Nicklaus was so upset that he was glad for a rain delay because it gave him time to get his mind set for his own round. The elder Nicklaus put in a respectable round of even par, only seven shots behind the leader.

Earlier, though, he arrived at Congressional Country Club and went straight to the USGA scoring computer, which tracks players’ rounds as they unfold.

``The first thing I turned on was the computer and saw that he was 10-over after 14,″ Nicklaus said. ``I was depressed for him as any father would be.″

Said the young Nicklaus of his play: ``I did two things that you should not do at the U.S. Open. I hit the ball in the rough too many times, and left it above the hole too many times. That led to bogeys, double-bogeys and a triple.″

``This may have been as bad as I’ve driven the ball all year,″ Gary Nicklaus said. ``But it was the U.S. Open and a good experience.″

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NO-AM: For the third time in four years, no amateurs made the cut at the U.S. Open.

Former Tiger Woods teammate Joel Kribel, who lost to Woods in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship last year, came closest among the five amateurs in the 156-player field.

The 20-year-old Stanford junior knocked himself out on the par-3 18th, dumping his tee shot in the water and then three-putting.

``This will haunt me for awhile,″ Kribel said. ``I tried, but I just didn’t get it done today.″

Kribel had spent much of the first two days on the leader board. He shot an even-par 71 for the first round and parred the first six holes of the second.

But Kribel bogeyed four of his next six holes and was 4 over through 12 when darkness suspended play Friday. He began Saturday with another bogey, then went birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey before his tee shot landed short and rolled into the water at No. 18.

He shot 78 for the round for a 148 total, missing the cut by one stroke.

``I got cautious, and hit it in the rough a couple of times (at the 16th and 17th),″ Kribel said. ``I lost focus.″

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NO SWEATT: The 17th hole caused Gregory Sweatt a great deal of perspiration Saturday morning when he completed his second round.

Sweatt, who plays the Nike Tour, took an 11 on the 480-yard par 4, which played as the hardest hole in the second round.

Sweatt drove his tee shot into the trees on the right and had to chip back to the fairway. Then he hit his approach into the water and had to take a drop. His fifth shot found the rough, and that’s where the fun began.

It took him four shots to get out of the rough and onto the green, where he two-putted for the highest one-hole score so far in the tournament.

Sweatt wound up with a 48 on the back nine, 89 for the second round. He missed the cut at 27-over 167.