ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) — The horn that suspended play at the U.S. Open also turned out to be the official signal to shop.
Forget Ian Poulter. The real early leader at Merion Golf Club was the merchandise tent — all three of them. Those crackles of thunder led to plenty of ka-chinging at the stores.
Storms were expected in the Philadelphia area for most of Thursday, and when the alert sounded at 8:36 a.m., thousands of fans left their perches in the grandstands and went in search of souvenirs — $45 umbrellas and $27 hats.
"We were so excited but we really didn't even get to see anything," said Samantha Jaffee, holding $88 worth of Open items.
So she followed the lead of hundreds of others, browsing through racks of $95 shirts along with posters, books and bags.
Aside from the big, white souvenir tents, there were few options to escape the storm, so fans took advantage of any covered area, no matter the size — a small ATM machine booth, a USGA survey tent that was mostly empty during practice rounds.
All the while, there were announcements on screens and from public safety officials telling spectators to seek shelter; weather warning signs flashed on leader boards around the course.
"Safety is paramount so flexibility is employed," USGA spokesman Dan Hubbard said. "This means (the) clubhouse or other restricted areas may be made available, if needed."
USGA officials said about 17,000 fans were on the course when the horn sounded. Weather alerts were posted on video boards around the course and fans were directed to the tents, buildings, busses, even nearby Haverford College for shelter, director for Open championships Mike Butz said.
Fans also were kept updated on weather and safety procedures through social media and other websites.
"I think the plan we put in place, in a lot of ways, was a good trial run for us," Butz said. "The plan itself worked really well."
The USGA quickly suspended transportation from three main lots to Merion, though service continued for anyone who wanted to call it a day and leave. Which brings us to refunds.
If there is less than a full four hours of play, U.S. Open championship director Reg Jones said there could be refunds or tickets "possibly" could be used another day. The tournament was less than two hours old when the horn blew but resumed shortly after noon under mostly sunny skies.