Golf Course Management

JUN 2013

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

Issue link: http://gcmdigital.gcsaa.org/i/132416

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Top: Shaffer with his crew and Merion GC staff members. Shaffer (front row, ffth from left) is next to Christine Pooler, general manager. Bottom: A member of Shaffer's crew, busy even after dark. 46 GCM June 2013 USGA Green Section, supported Shaffer. After being denied once by the club's board, Greenwood and Shaffer tried again later the same week when it appeared there was no end to the relentless heat. Finally, they got their wish, six weeks before the U.S. Amateur. Shaffer recalls staff at the front gate of Merion on Saturday morning, turning away members. "I remember Mr. Greenwood putting his arm around my shoulder saying, 'This better work.' I knew it would be hugely controversial, but I felt in my heart it was the right thing to do," Shaffer says. Shaffer launched the process of growing grass. That included fortifying the bentgrass greens. He also used ryegrass to enhance the rough, which had been a hodge podge of grasses. The U.S. Amateur proved to be a success and quite a test. Only fve players broke par in the 36-hole stroke play qualifying for the U.S. Amateur. That, if anything, was a sign that Merion still just may be U.S. Open-worthy in an era of bombers off the tee. "I don't know if that amateur set us up for this year, but if the greens had died, I defnitely think it would've killed the dream of another U.S. Open," Shaffer says. Latshaw, who ultimately mentored Shaffer through the grass recovery, says: "Matt has what a lot of us need more of. Once he makes a decision, he will stand by it. He's not afraid. If something needs to be done, he doesn't hold back. Sometimes we don't want to put our hind end on the line. I can't think of a situation he backed off." Fast-forward eight years since that U.S. Amateur. In April, on a warmer-than-usual spring afternoon, Shaffer stood in the middle of the 18th fairway, where Hogan struck a shot that was captured from behind by Sports Illustrated photographer Hy Peskin — one of the most iconic images in sports history. Shaffer pointed to a spot in the grass. There's a plaque for Hogan, too, where he hit that famous 1-iron on the 72nd hole. The memory of Hogan lingers for those who know Merion so well, including Shaffer, a Pennsylvania native, who now can handle grass, in part because of those allergy shots he received weekly for as long as he can remember as a youth. Allergy relief as an adult comes in the form of Advair, allowing him to breathe easy, a luxury that was practically non-existent so many years ago. There is more to Shaffer, however, than allergies. He is a voracious reader, completing as many as 20 novels in the winter. Digs holes or mows when he's stressed. Loves to wash his cars because a dirty ride gets under his skin. Cherishes the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penn State Nittany Lions. Aids others in distress.

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