The one thing you can’t buy at the U.S. Open (plus a slideshow of the best merch tent items)

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf

ARDMORE, Pa. — I love the smell of commerce in the morning!

Because I'm a fan of both oversized tents and watching people spend a mortgage payment on logoed event gear, I hit up the U.S. Open's main merchandise area at Merion Golf Club on Friday. My aim was to find the oddest items available for sale, but the absence of one unique collectible was rather conspicuous.

Replicas of Merion's famous red wicker baskets were nowhere to be found. Oh, don't get me wrong. The iconic flag alternatives appeared on plenty of merchandise bearing the tournament's official log, including shirts, hats, golf towels, commemorative posters and even stuffed teddy bears.

But if you wanted to remember the tournament with a real, red wicker basket, which are actually made of metal and weigh eight pounds apiece, you were out of luck.

You could, however, purchase pin flags (pictured above) that won't ever be used during this weekend's tournament. They're a nice momento from your time at Merion and a decent value at $12, but they're not the red wicker baskets that mark each hole at the legendary course.

"A few people have asked for them," said one volunteer when I inquired if they were just hiding in a corner somewhere. "But (the baskets) apparently stay right here at Merion."

I remarked that was a shame and the volunteer agreed. We brainstormed a quick list of wicker basket items they could have been selling.

Bird feeders! Swizzle sticks! Fancy pens! Antenna toppers!

Alas, the red wicker baskets appear to be a protected image around these parts. Golf fans will take their shirts, ball marker sets and golf balls with the logo and they will like them. And, hey, it's not like there weren't hundreds of other things to spend your money on (ie: a $65 long-sleeve shirt for a golf blogger who didn't pack appropriately for a damp 60-degree morning).

Here's a slideshow of some of the best (and oddest) items I saw:

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