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Press complain about US Open checks

Several news organizations have challenged the United States Golf Association's requirement that journalists agree to extensive background checks before being allowed to cover next month's U.S. Open.

David Schulz, an attorney for six media companies, said in a protest letter sent to the USGA on Tuesday that the ``open-ended demand for information is unnecessary, inappropriate and should be immediately reconsidered.''

Schulz wrote on behalf of The Associated Press, the Tribune Co., USA Today, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Co. and The Washington Post Co.

The Open is set for June 13-16 on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on Long Island.

The credential asks journalists to sign a release that would grant permission to check ``any and all records concerning me or my background.'' Such checks would include, but not be limited to, driving and criminal records.

Schulz said the release could authorize disclosure of medical and credit information as well as tax returns and other ``private, sensitive and entirely irrelevant information.''

David Tomlin, assistant to AP president and CEO Louis D. Boccardi, said: ``As a news organization we're alarmed by how far the USGA has tried to go with the release it's seeking. It's way past what we think is reasonable or necessary. And it's also a burden on relations between AP and its journalists.

``In the end, they're the ones who would have to sign this form, and it's their personal information that would become accessible to strangers, not AP's.''

Marty Parkes, the USGA's senior director of communications, said the USGA was reviewing Schulz's letter.

``We'll go back and check the language of other organizations,'' he said.

The USGA is playing the U.S. Open on a municipal course for the first time and said it was conducting background checks for heightened security purposes following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

``We worked very closely with law enforcement officials on Long Island and in the state of New York,'' Parkes said. ``We took some care to find out what other organizations have done for events like the U.S. Open.

``All we're trying to do is make the U.S. Open as safe as possible,'' he said.

Anyone with access beyond that of the public, including USGA officials and onsite caterers and course workers, are subject to the same background checks, Parkes said.

``We feel we're not asking people to do things we weren't going to do ourselves,'' he said.

Journalists were included in the group, he said, because of their access to players' clubhouses and locker rooms.

The USGA conferred with media people and organizations, such as the Golf Writers Association of America, and briefed them on what could be expected as far as background checks, Parkes said.

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