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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stars During the recession, Merion Golf Club still chose to build a new turf care center. The results are a win-win situation for Mother Nature and superintendent Matt Shaffer. The green roof atop Matt Shaffer's maintenance facility almost looks like it is part of the golf course. It's located off the 18th fairway at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., where old-school charm resonates, a magical place where you quickly learn legends Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan achieved major feats. For all of its history, Merion is equally hip, a modern-day example of meshing the old with the new, and for all the right reasons, too. Start with that green roof atop Building A, which is partly built underground, creating the effect that the roof is linked to rough on No. 18. The insulation from the green roof means results in savings of $3,000 in electrical costs for the building's interior. It is part of a 2.4-acre, $3 million-plus project, which makes Merion an example of how to go green to save green. Those who monitor this type of thing have taken notice. The facility, which opened less than three years ago, has already earned a Green Building Award from Associated Builders and Contractors. Shaffer, Merion's director of golf course management and recipient of the 2012 GCSAA/Golf Digest Environmental Leaders in Golf Award for National Private Club, used to be situated in the clubhouse, away from his staff, which was working out of an outdated facility where the new one is now located. He sure digs his still relatively new digs. "It's like nothing I've ever seen, nothing I've ever been around," Shaffer says. How environmentally friendly is Merion? Well, beyond its certifed Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status (raptors and hawks are frequent guests), its fertilizer and chemical building is self-contained so nothing escapes. Used motor oil from maintenance equipment is being put to good use, helping save more than $4,000 annually in heating bills. All lighting is on sensors. WaterSaver showers and plumbing reduce costs. Dishes for meals were purchased, eliminating the need for Styrofoam containers. Inground water sensors on the course provide proper moisture content. Merion instituted a full-service IPM program. In April, Shaffer said he hadn't sprayed since October. "Our downstream, our neighbors, are our users, and our members are the neighborhood," says Merion assistant superintendent Dave McDonald, adding that a proposed upcoming project is focused on eliminating plastic water bottles in favor of an old-fashioned pump system that uses geothermal energy to cool the drinking water. If the pump comes to fruition, members and guests will receive neoprene bottles that are more environmentally sound. Even people beyond the golf course management industry notice Shaffer. During the spring, as part of National Golf Day, he was invited to the nation's capital to speak to members of Congress about his environmental tactics at Merion. They simply are, Shaffer says, an extension of what members call "The Merion Experience." "We exist at a high level at everything we do, and that includes how we treat the environment," Shaffer says. — H.R. 50 GCM June 2013 "Nothing was put on him (Matt) until it was washed," says Shaffer's sister, Annette Ritchey. "Matt would get bad very, very quickly. A doctor who lived close, Howard Kerr, went way beyond the call of duty with his patients. He lived close, so he could come fast." Speed was a necessity on occasion in Shaffer's childhood. It was a matter of life and death. "A couple of times that he was in the hospital, they didn't think he would make it," says Shaffer's wife of 39 years, Renna. "He's deathly allergic to nuts. I almost killed him a couple times accidentally. A night not too long ago he ate a Granola bar and started to feel funny. We were 3 minutes from calling 9-1-1." Yet his family practically needed a seat belt to keep Shaffer indoors in his youth. Clover Creek wasn't too far from home, and that meant good trout fshing. "He loved to walk in the woods, hunt groundhogs, fox," says longtime friend John Bolger. "Matt was such a grinder, had a stick-to-it approach, such a focus on everything." Shaffer likes to call himself a farmer and early on was fascinated by growing things. He got a bang out of planting tomato seeds and reaping the benefts. Nowadays, carrots are the "in" thing. He puts them in everything, Renna says. By the time he was 12, Shaffer had $1,200 in his bank account for work he did, such as picking strawberries. After earning a two-year turfgrass degree from Penn State University in 1974, Shaffer's journey began. He married Renna on Aug. 10 that year, and it proved to be quite a memorable occasion — after the ceremony, that is. "We spent our wedding night in the hospital," Renna recalls. "We rented a wing of the Holiday Inn after the wedding. Matt was outside with some friends, and I saw him get on a motorcycle. He hits the gas, and the cycle ends up on top of him in the parking lot. He had to get 36 stitches in his leg. We ended up spending our honeymoon in my mom's basement. I carried him over the threshold." A month later, Shaffer was hired for his frst superintendent job, at Meadia Heights Golf Club in Lancaster, Pa. In time, Latshaw aided Shaffer in the break that would make his career. Latshaw was in charge at Augusta National Golf Club when Shaffer became one of his assistants in 1986. Although a main perk of a job at a course like Augusta National is how it opens doors you never imagined (Shaffer

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