As the first round of the U.S. Senior Open started to heat up, so too did the fans that were in attendance at Del Paso Country Club.
By noon Thursday, the smell of rye grass and sun block filled the air. Most people steered clear of the grandstands that were exposed to the glaring sun. Spectators chose to sit alongside concession stands and in shaded areas under the trees.
Because the temperature reached 102 degrees, USGA allowed spectators to bring up to two 24-ounce bottles of water Thursday and throughout the championship.
Janeen Driscoll, USGA’s director of public affairs, said that they were doing everything they could to make sure that fans were safe during the event.
“This is not the first time (the USGA) has dealt with hot temperatures before; it’s not extraordinary,” Driscoll said.
There were no water fountains around the golf course, but people were able to buy water for $2.50 per bottle at concession stands at each hole.
“Almost every customer I’ve had has asked for water,” said Jennifer Strade, who worked at the concession stand in front of the main entrance. A number of fans were walking around with plastic bags full of bottled water.
Despite the heat, most of the fans remained in good spirits and excited about the first round. The main problem the USGA had was spectators bringing oversize bags, said Driscoll. A number of people were sent back to Cal Expo – where general parking is located – to put their big bags in their cars.
Jose Amador, who drove from Modesto to watch the championship, said that he had no issues finding a parking spot for his car at Cal Expo. People took a shuttle from there.
“The buses were crowded but the ride was tolerable because it was short,” Amador said.
By 1:30 p.m., the temperature was 97 degrees. Spectators abandoned their shaded areas to sit in the grandstands despite the sun beating down on the links. People were sweating profusely as they anxiously waited – in silence – for 2014 U.S. Senior Open champion Colin Montgomerie and former U.S. Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer to tee off.
Montgomerie and Sacramento native Kevin Sutherland, who teed off 10 minutes later, were the only players to get the crowd to stay for another hour before a huge portion of them started to leave due to the heat.
Approximately two dozen spectators had to receive medical attention because of the heat.
“Most of them just needed shade to cool down,” Driscoll said.
Even with the 102-degree temperature and fans leaving early, Driscoll said the first day of the Senior Open was a success because of the fans.
“People (were) so excited,” she said. “I think what surprised me is so many of the fans of the seniors playing are so educated (about the players).”
Temperatures for the second round are expected to again reach 102 degrees, although there is a forecast for more cloud coverage.
“It’s hot. It’s definitely hot,” said Hayden Long from Folsom. “But other than that, there’s plenty of shady spots; I’ll just deal with it.”