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.

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A real basket case at Merion Nobody knows for sure how those spiffy wicker baskets atop the fagsticks at Merion Golf Club originated, but this much is certain: They have been around for more than a century — and they will be on display during the U.S. Open this month. This also is clear: Those wicker baskets are extremely precious. "Each night, they are collected in a basket and placed under lock and key," Merion director of golf course management Matt Shaffer says. And, believe it or not, each wicker basket has a name. "Some of them are named after former superintendents here," Shaffer says. "One of the men who had a large cranium, well, that wicker basket is called Mr. Potato Head." — H.R. "I know he's helped people fnancially, with things such as mortgages and fnancial obligations," his brother, David, says. "Those weren't insignifcant contributions." Now, as the U.S. Open draws near, Shaffer's passion for his profession is being rewarded. Those who have a stake in his work applaud the effort. "There's no one in a U.S. Open that has more infuence on the success of a U.S. Open, if you take Mother Nature and set her aside, no one other than the golf course superintendent, and Matt is just fantastic," says USGA executive director Mike Davis. "The things he's done to Merion to make it just a better course day-to-day for the members, but also for the U.S. Open … I just can't give him enough accolades." Merion general chairman Rick Ill agrees. "Nobody ever doubts where Matt stands on anything," Ill says. "He's an asset to Merion, and he gets what we're trying to accomplish." Shaffer, 60, senses what is about to happen. Being part of it is the ultimate perk. "We're in good shape," Shaffer says. "If the weather's normal, we'll win the World Series. We'll stone it cold. I know we will." The plaque on the 11th hole at Merion GC symbolizes where legend Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Amateur in 1930. Photo by Howard Richman 48 GCM June 2013 Pennsylvania boy makes good Merion Golf Club, shoehorned into 125 acres, probably isn't much bigger than Shaffer's hometown. Martinsburg, Pa., located approximately 100 miles east of Pittsburgh, is a black buggy, Mennonite town. Has one red light. A shoe factory. Two retirement centers (that is a key reason the town sells rare greeting cards for great-grandchildren). Shaffer's parents, Luther (a banker) and Miriam (a nurse), raised their four children with impeccable values. They were adamant, Shaffer says, never to seek glory. Their lessons remain part of his fber. "Mom instilled in us to never hold a grudge," says Shaffer. "If I get mad, after 20 minutes, I'm fne. Life is pretty simple when you're never mad at anybody. I've seen people let jealousy and rage destroy their lives." At a tender age in his life, Shaffer had reasons to be mad at the world. His fngernails were rounded, like an asthmatic, and he was brave, Long says, never letting his family see him cry when he was hospitalized. Shaffer had to spend three months a year in an oxygen tent, and, on a daily basis, Miriam sterilized the room Matt shared with his brother.

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