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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Shaffer (far left) oversees his crew outside the maintenance facility. Photo by David Campli "Even on TV you will see weeds at Merion for the U.S. Open. What is unique about Merion is they are more concerned with playability than being perfectly manicured, all green." — Darin Brevard had an opportunity to leave six months later for a superintendent's position), he chose to stay. If anything, it was a sign of maturity. "I fnally had realized I didn't know what I needed to know," Shaffer says. "I told Paul I needed to stay and learn from him. I didn't have an ounce of fnesse. I was raw. I had no peripheral vision. I could identify the problem, but there was a lot of collateral damage. He taught me to stand back 10 minutes, hold onto the thought you were going to do, then look at the situation again. It let me see how harsh my leadership style was, how aggressive I was. He liked that, but I had to temper it. Thankfully, he recognized a means to an end." Once he was refned, and ready, Shaffer left the home of the Masters for the superintendent position at Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill, N.J. There would be another stop, at the Country Club of Cleveland, before Shaffer landed the big enchilada. On Feb. 1, 2002, Shaffer started at Merion. Since that time, Merion has hosted the U.S. Amateur and the Walker Cup in 2009. It was obvious to Greenwood that Shaffer had the tools to oversee a course such as Merion, which in 1992 was registered as a National Historic Landmark. "The greatest thing I can tell you about Matt is that he trusts the people he hires and works with," Greenwood says. "He's able to make a large number of people understand they have a big piece of the action when they go out on the golf course, and that pays dividends." Merion superintendent Arron McCurdy says, "Matt's hard on us all, demands a lot from us. In the end, he looks at us as his kids. He wants us to be successful. Everything he does is for the golf club. He genuinely loves this place." This month, Shaffer adds quite a notch in his belt when Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and numerous other guys you've heard about take their best shot at Merion. "I always believed in the land grant mission. He is a country boy that made good," says Joseph Duich, Ph.D., the famed turfgrass professor at Penn State. "He did not come from the big city. He paid his dues." Merion, meanwhile, thinks it hit the jackpot with Shaffer. "He's extraordinary," says Merion general manager Christine Pooler. "He's an educator. He wants people to be better. He wants everyone to improve from where they currently are. It's about trust. It comes down to that. He's earned it." Merion returns to a major stage You will have a better chance seeing someone eating a Philly cheese steak than catching a glimpse of lush, wall-to-wall green at Merion. The USGA is fne with that. "Even on TV you will see weeds at Merion for the U.S. Open," says Darin Brevard, director of the Mid-Atlantic region of the USGA Green Section. "What is unique about Merion is they are more concerned with playability than being perfectly manicured, all green. The last time I was there, the playing surfaces were awesome. Everything looked great." 52 GCM June 2013

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