A small city of gleaming white tents rising from a former cornfield near 72nd and State Streets has attracted Omahan Tim Peskey's attention for some time, and on Sunday, he investigated.
Not much of a golfer himself, Peskey said he was aware that the Omaha Country Club will host the U.S. Senior Open this week. What most interested him, however, was the amount of construction activity in his neighborhood.
“It's been pretty neat watching the tents and all the big equipment starting to show up,” said Peskey, who is a carpenter. “Just seeing what I see as I pass here every day, you realize this is going to be a really big deal.”
Peskey and his wife visited the tournament's 10,000-square-foot merchandise tent to pick up some memorabilia.
Dozens of tents dot the grounds. Some are educational, such as the Chevron Stem Zone, in which the science of golf is explained. Others are sponsored by corporations to promote their products or to cater to special guests.
“Just looking at everything from the outside, this is amazing, because you can tell they are getting ready for a ton of people,” Peskey said.
Nick Piccirilli works for the Bruno Event Team, which has managed numerous events for the U.S. Golf Association, the tournament sponsor. He said a steady stream shoppers began arriving shortly after the merchandise tent opened at 9 a.m.
This marks the first time the USGA has ever offered merchandise for sale to the public before a championship event began, Piccirilli said. A typical merchandise tent is about 5,400 square feet, he said.
“This is probably the largest Senior Open (merchandise) tent that we've ever had. There's been such a large interest for everything here in Omaha that we decided to experiment and have a pre-championship grand opening for the public.”
No golf clubs are available for purchase — the USGA doesn't want to play favorites, Piccirilli said— but just about anything else a golf fan can imagine is under the big top, all stamped with the event logo.
The inventory includes wide-brimmed hats, ball caps, visors, T-shirts, collared shirts, shorts, umbrellas, coffee mugs, towels, water glasses, chairs, stools, pictures of the course and sweatshirts that double as blankets.
Steve and Joann Dickmeyer of Lincoln have attended at least 10 large golf tournaments, including the Senior PGA Championship earlier this year in St. Louis.
If the merchandise tent is any indication, they said, Omaha can expect a first-class event.
“We got out of church this morning and, boom, we were up here,” Steve Dickmeyer said. “There is really a nice selection of stuff here. The (merchandise) tent in St. Louis wasn't even half this size.”
His wife, whose favorite players are Fred Couples and Fred Funk, figured the couple would spend between $100 and $150. She spoke while checking out ladies apparel as her husband and son, Drew, trailed along.
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|See hole illustrations, insight from course pros, photos and video from every hole and more in our Senior Open course guide.|
“There are a lot of different things here,” she said. “This definitely rivals the regular (PGA) Tour merchandise tents that we've seen at (events) across the country.”
Pat Budler of Kearney was one of more than 3,000 volunteers who received a 15 percent discount on tournament merchandise during a special event Saturday. He returned Sunday with his daughter and two grandchildren after having “done some serious damage to his debit card” the day before.
Budler said he was wearing his prized piece of memorabilia: a ball cap with the tournament logo on the front and his last name on the back. The cap will be a memento of what promises to be an exciting week, he said.
“I was at Des Moines (for the U.S. Senior Open) in 1999, but I think this is going to be more memorable, because it's here in Nebraska,” Budler said.
Some visitors to the merchandise tent knew exactly what they wanted.
Chris Myhre, who was shopping with his wife, Deda, showed off the three items they bought.
“I've got my hat, a T-shirt and shot glass,” he said. “I mean, what else do you need?”