Smith, 98, was a pioneer and innovator of turf maintenance products. He launched his business in 1967 with the Red Rider utility truck. In a 1968 advertisement, the Red Rider was referred to as that "walkless-workmore carrier of men and things." Smithco followed up with riding bunker rakes.
Smithco, which began in Wayne, Pa., has grown throughout the years, and has manufacturing plants in Kansas and Wisconsin. Smith is being succeeded as president by his son, Don Smith.
Read more about Ted Smith in the August issue of GCM.
The reward for years, months, weeks and days of hard work? You get your picture taken with the U.S. Open champion.
Justin Rose, who recorded a triumph Sunday in the 113th U.S. Open, is flanked by director of golf course operations Matt Shaffer and his crew that overcame 6 inches of rain in a week to make the East Course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., shine.
That is Shaffer to Rose's right. To Rose's far right is superintendent Arron McCurdy. Thanks to Merion's Dave McDonald and the USGA for the image.
U.S. Open golfers obviously can kiss Matt Shaffer's grass.
When PGA Tour player Shawn Stefani recorded the first hole-in-one in a U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club's East Course yesterday in the final round, he kneeled and placed his lips on the slope of the rough where his tee shot landed before it kicked off that area and trickled onto the green and into the cup.
Most of the rest of the time, though, all these guys such as Stefani could do was kiss their chances goodbye. Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion Golf Club (pictured), tells GCM today that he was stunned nobody broke par, including champion Justin Rose, who finished 1-over.
There had been predictions that tiny, 6,996-yard Merion would be destroyed by players such as Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson, big bombers who were expected to dominate a historic layout that many thought was past its prime. Instead, it was the golfers who took a beating. As for those who thought golfers might post 62s or 63s, well, not even close, folks.
"I knew they wouldn't go 15-under," Shaffer says, "but actually I was amazed they didn't break par. Not one of them. I didn't care if they broke par; I'm surprised they didn't."
That includes Woods, who shot 13-over, his highest score at a major since turning professional. Twice in the first round Woods misfired, landed in the deep, gnarly, nasty rough, and both times seemed to have hurt his wrist or elbow after whacking out of it.
Shaffer's analysis of Woods' issues on those specific situations?
"He shouldn't have put it in there," Shaffer says.
Right now, the Merion Golf Club Green Department headed by director of golf course operations Matt Shaffer and superintendent Arron McCurdy are enjoying some cold beverages.
And why not? The East Course, under their preparation, showed its teeth in the 113th U.S. Open that Justin Rose captured a couple of hours ago. Nobody broke par, including Rose, who was good enough at 1-over to record his first major championship. He beat runnerups Phil Mickelson and Jason Day by two strokes.
Reached by phone, McCurdy tells GCM that this post-event celebration that he is sharing with more than 150 staff, including volunteers, is bittersweet.
"It feels good to be done, but it's kind of a bummer, though," McCurdy says. "You work all that time to get ready for this, and now it's done."
He says that he and Shaffer thanked the crew for their effort.
"Everybody kept congratulating us (McCurdy and Shaffer). It wasn't about us," McCurdy says. "The focus should be on them (crew), not us."
This year is turning into quite a reunion tour for Dick Bator.
Bator spent the past few days at Merion Golf Club for the U.S. Open. It's not like this was his first time; Bator was superintendent at Merion from 1989-92. Bator, though, isn't done yet this summer. In August, he will go to Oak Hill Country Club for the PGA Championship. Yes, Bator is very familiar with that piece of ground, too. He was superintendent there in 1980 when Oak Hill was host to a PGA Championship.
If that isn't impressive enough, Bator also served as superintendent at a place you probably have heard about. Bator was superintendent at Pine Valley Golf Club, a regular placeholder of the No. 1 rated golf courses in magazines that rate those type of things, including Golf Digest, which currently has Pine Valley atop its list.
"I've been fortunate. Blessed," Bator, 68, told GCM a few days ago at Merion, where he was holding court, and for good reason.
Here are the course set-up notes from the USGA for the final round of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.:
SETUP FOR ROUND 4 OF THE 2013 U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
The following are details on the course setup for Round 4 of the 2013
U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, from Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director.
Weather Forecast for Sunday (provided by Jake
Swick of Thor Guard Weather): Look
for more clouds than sun this morning with a shower or few sprinkles possible
as the first wave of the next storm system weakens heading into our existing
drier air from yesterday. Southwesterly winds will pick up by this
afternoon though, with gusts past 15 mph at times. Combine that with a bit
more sunshine projected to start this afternoon and we should become warm
enough and humid enough to get some shower and thunderstorm activity started
with the second piece of energy. Fortunately because of all the extra
cloud cover, the latest indications are that the atmosphere may not be as
unstable as previously thought. Therefore expect a shower or storm to be
possible from 2 p.m. on with the best chance for scattered showers (60 percent)
and maybe a storm (30 percent) by 5 p.m. through 8 p.m. A shower or storm
is possible as well this evening, however most of the action should die down
after sunset. Monday should start out muggier than this morning and it
will also be hotter as well with just the slimmest risk of a shower or
Green Speeds: The
final round’s green speeds are in the 13- to 13½-foot range on the USGA
It could be because she is a rising star on the LPGA Tour
with four top 10 finishes in 12 starts. Or, it could be because her father
Ramon is the equipment technician at Azusa Greens Country Club in Azusa,
Calif., working with GCSAA member Rob Mayock. Salas was the winner of the first ever GCM Most Valuable Technician
award, presented by Foley United, in 2010. He is quite a success story in his
own right, having immigrated from Mexico.
Lizette Salas will be profiled on the Golf Channel, Tuesday,
June 18 at 10:30 p.m. ET on “In Play with Jimmy Roberts.”
She graduated from the University of Southern California in
2011 and worked her way onto the LPGA Tour. She made quite a splash as she was
in contention to win the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. The fact that she is a high quality golfer is
a credit to her drive and talent, and the love of her father. A 33-year
employee of Azusa Greens, he worked a deal to get lessons for his three
On this Father’s Day weekend, it is easy to appreciate and
root for the Salas family.
For more on Ramon Salas read GCM or watch GCSAA TV. For a look at the
career Lizette Salas, read more here.
It's moving day at the U.S. Open. Could Arron McCurdy be on the move some day soon?
McCurdy, superintendent at the East Course, which the world is watching today as the 113th U. S. Open continues, says he loves Merion. Appreciates the opportunity that was given him, a story in itself we'll get to in a moment.
Yet, at age 36, he sounds ready to explore other opportunities.
"I'll be here till I get another job. I want to go," McCurdy says."I want to make some more money. One day I'll have a kid (8-year-old daughter Ava) graduating. I'd like to go somewhere warm. I hate the cold."
Here's the third round course setup for the U.S. Open, courtesy of the USGA:
SETUP: ROUND 3 OF THE 2013 U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
following are details on the course setup for Round 3 of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion
Golf Club, from Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director.
Weather Forecast for Saturday
(provided by Jake Swick of Thor Guard Weather) –Enjoy very nice conditions today under lots of
sunshine this morning with maybe just a few fair weather clouds mixing in at
times this afternoon. Temperatures will be warm up to their seasonal norm
this afternoon in the lower 80s. The humidity will be comfortably low by
lunchtime with a light breeze out of the northwest this morning and then the
westerly flow this afternoon may reach near 10 mph a couple of times during the
afternoon hours. Mostly clear skies this evening will give way to partly
cloudy skies overnight, keeping temperatures up a few degrees from last
night. Southwest winds will become more noticeable throughout the day on
Sunday ahead of the next storm system, which will also increase our humidity. Look
for a decent amount of clouds on Sunday too, along with a 40 percent chance of
a shower or storm. And that chance of showers and storms continues Sunday
night into Monday as we get warmer and more muggy.
Green Speeds – Today’s green
speeds are in 13- to 13½-foot range on the USGA Stimpmeter.
Fairway and Rough Grass – All
fairways were mowed this morning. The rough’s first cut (18 feet in width
of drive zones; 9 feet in width around greens) was cut immediately after play
Total Course Yardage for Saturday (tee
marker settings to flagstick) = 3,679
yards out; 3,254 yards in= 6,933 total yards
When you have a piece of equipment named after you, well, that is pretty impressive stuff.
Just so happens the namesake invented it.
Robert Smith is Merion Golf Club director of golf operations Matt Shaffer's equipment manager. He's been here since 2008. Smith developed the Robert Angle Master (Shaffer named it that), a mower that in essence is made to cut rough to specified heights. Smith obviously is a busy man this week, like today, as the best in the world tackle the East Course in the 113th U.S. Open.
Shaffer is thrilled to have Smith, who has been part of his staff since 2008. Yet he knows Smith can write his own ticket.
"He's unbelievable. The day I retire, I think somebody like John Deere will grab him," Shaffer says.
Straight from the USGA, here are the course set-up notes for the second round of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.:
COURSE SETUP FOR ROUND 2 OF THE 2013
U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
The following are details on the
course setup for Round 2 of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, from Mike
Davis, USGA Executive Director.
Forecast for Friday (provided by Jake Swick of Thor Guard Weather):About a tenth of an inch of rain fell
overnight and with the on-again, off-again showers and sprinkles this morning,
we could see up to another tenth of an inch of rain at the most. The other
main story to start this morning is the cool northerly winds gusting over 20
mph at times that will keep temperatures below normal today. Winds will
decrease throughout the day and as the sun comes out more this afternoon, we
will have to watch out for a shower or even a storm, especially around 5
p.m. The clouds should clear out quickly this evening and we are still
looking at nearly perfect weather on Saturday under lots of sunshine. Then
the next storm system quickly races into Pa. on Sunday bringing back the chance
of a shower or storm.
Winds in the morning could reach 10–20 mph out of
the north, then will soften as the day goes on.
As Matt Shaffer's crew hustled to put the finishing touches on the East Course at Merion Golf Club this morning for resumption of play in the 113th U.S. Open, their effort was helped by a move that occurred the previous day.
A Home Depot run.
"I went to Home Depot yesterday to buy some headlamps and flashlights," assistant superintendent/information specialist Dave McDonald told GCM as he checked out the course at No. 17 just a short while ago, before the continuation of first round play began at 7:13 a.m. (and, yes, 3 minutes after the horn sounded to resume action, the rain began to fall again).
"I got a total of 40 pieces, probably cost about $500. They used them (headlamps) this morning to rake bunkers. I always wondered how you rake bunkers in the dark."
In other final preparation news, McDonald says some greens were double rolled to push water off from overnight, bunkers needed fluffing and debris removal kept the staff busy.
As for the fact only two players out of 78 who finished their round yesterday broke par, McDonald probably summed it up best.
Stuff like this puts a smile on Matt Shaffer's face.
"I think that anybody in that commentary box has never given this golf course enough respect," golfer Ian Poulter said following his first round today in the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. "They were joking around, laughing at 63s and 62s (some of the scores that had been predicted) and just look at the board.
"I mean they need to respect this golf course.It's brutal. The rough's thick, and you get into some of those greens ... they're still running 13 even though we had a downpour today. It's easy to let the ball get away from you."
Shaffer, director of golf course operations, wanted fast and firm all along on a course that by today's standards is rather short at 6,996 yards. Despite 6 inches of rain the past week, it still looks like he got it. Just ask golfer Rickie Fowler, who said the course plays "more like 7,400 or 7,500 yards." Only two of 78 players that completed their round when play was suspended at 8:19 p.m. shot under par (Phil Mickelson, 3-under-par 67 and Nicolas Colsaerts fired a 69).
"I think it'll be hard for them to figure out the pace," Shaffer tells GCM. "These greens are extremely fast."
The USGA issues notes about matters of course maintenance and set-up to the media prior to each round of the U.S. Open. And since Mother Nature has delayed first round play enough that these notes are still relavant, thought we would share them with you. Look for them each day of the championship:
COURSE SETUP FOR ROUND ONE OF THE 2013
U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
The following are details on the
course setup for Round 1 of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, from Mike
Davis, USGA Executive Director.
green speeds before the rain were in the 13- to
13 1/2-foot range on the USGA Stimpmeter. They will likely settle out in the mid-to-high
12s when play resumes.
anticipation of today’s weather event, the closer-in (roughly 18 feet in width)
rough grass in the drive zones, as well as the closer-in (9 feet in width)
greenside rough on some of the holes, was mowed last night.
Affecting Course Setup Decisions: Hole locations for Round 1 were chosen based on the
forecast for heavy rains. Further, teeing grounds and hole locations that
have more slope were chosen based on the forecast for winds predominantly out
of the south for Thursday. However, winds will switch to predominantly from the
north on Friday (when we will likely still be playing Round 1). The intent is
to provide fair conditions with the knowledge that there will likely be wind in
opposite directions for Round 1.
This was a moment that Ryan Tuxhorn and Tom Currie should frame in their mind for quite a while.
After all, unless you're somebody like Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, how often do you get to hear cheers from the grandstands on the 18th hole of a major golf championship?
Tuxhorn and Currie (pictured from left to right), part of Merion Golf Club director of operations Matt Shaffer's volunteer crew for the U.S. Open, had just completed squeegying water from the 18th fairway that is closest to the bleachers a little while ago. As they finished, Tuxhorn and Currie thrust their work tools toward the sky, jogging of the course as they did so, and the people in the bleachers erupted with their approval.
Maybe those folks simply were restless, and now will have to wait even longer for golfers to show because of a weather delay that finally ended at 12:07 after a nearly 4-hour delay. Tuxhorn, who works at Somerset Hills Country Club in Bernardsville, N.J., thought their exit was simply the right thing to do.
"Everybody's been kind of down, bleak because of the weather," he says. "We were trying to fire them up a little bit."
Currie, who works for Genesis Turf Grass in Glen Rock, Pa., got a kick out of it, too.
When on-site meteorologist Herbert Stevens informed Merion's Matt Shaffer that this impending morning storm may be a half inch or an inch, Shaffer sounded optimistic and relieved.
"Anything less than 2 and we're golden," Shaffer said minutes ago.
The storm, which could pose issues for the U.S. Open that started 90 minutes ago, should be "an hour event," according to Stevens, who worked at The Weather Channel in its inception in 1982. Another wave, though, that could be severe in nature is expected to hit this afternoon. There already are reports of lightning are less than 30 miles away.
"If it goes through Ardmore, we have risk of severe weather that lasts an hour," Stevens says. "If it goes south, it could last three or four hours."
No Tiger sightings yet on the East Course at Merion Golf Club, where the 113th U.S. Open tees off in less than one hour.
Director of golf course operations Matt Shaffer's crew, though, is out there, hard at work making final preparations (see accompanying image).
No rain yet, but it is expected to arrive sooner than later and could get nasty. That possibility, however, didn't hamper people such as the green department's Duane Schell, who is volunteering this week, from his duty of mowing greens. He had a smile on his face while he was doing it, too.
"It's a special place. I think the weather has everybody a little concerned, but there was still an energy there among our group when we went out early this morning," says Schell, GCSAA Class A superintendent at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club in Mountain Top, Pa., and a 19-year member of the association. "This is the first major I got to work. It's kind of everything I anticipated and a little bit more."
In less than 10 hours, Merion director of golf course operations Matt Shaffer plans to send his green department team on the grounds of the East Course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., to prepare for the first round of the 113th U.S. Open.
Any pep talk planned, Matt?
"I'll get them revved up a little," Shaffer tells GCM.
I'll tell them it's hammer time!," he says, accentuating the statement with a gung-ho kind of feel to it, a sign that even he is getting charged up about this rather monumental moment at Merion.
Now, all he can do is hope that Merion isn't hammered.
It doesn't sound pretty for Thursday, if you listen to meteorologist Herbert Stevens, who provides weather information for approximately 70 golf courses in the region.
"It's breezy right now, which tells me there's a pretty good pressure gradient," Stevens said around 3 this afternoon. "That tells me the atmosphere is energized, capable of mischief."
Their accents let you know pretty fast that these guys weren't raised on Philly cheesesteaks.
Dan Ganley (far right) and Sam Keats, though, know a little something about Pennsylvania. In particular, they have gotten to be well-versed on Merion Golf Club. It is here where they are in the middle of being part of a major production that certainly will look neat on their resumes.
Ganley and Keats, who have come all the way from New Zealand, are serving as interns for the Green Department under director of golf course operations Matt Shaffer. Ganley and Keats, who have been at Merion since last year, are here as part of The Ohio Program, an international exchange program that specializes in internships for horticulture, agriculture and turfgrass.
"It's definitely the biggest tournament I will be part of," says Keats, 23, who previously served an apprenticeship at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Using the U.S. Open and the likes of Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Arnold Palmer and the late Rodney Dangerfield as part of its platform, the USGA launched its pace of play initiative with the theme "While We're Young" during a news conference here this morning at Merion Golf Club, site of the 113th U.S. Open.
In case you missed the 1980 golf cult film classic "Caddyshack," there's a scene in which Dangerfield implores a fellow golfer, played by the late Ted Knight, to quit waggling over his tee shot and hit the ball.
"Let's go ... while we're young," Dangerfield said.
Well, the USGA has taken that line and transformed it into its campaign theme. It also is introducing a slew of public service announcements, using Woods, Creamer, Palmer, Annika Sorenstam, Butch Harmon and Clint Eastwood to get the point across.
In one of them, Palmer urges Eastwood to hit his tee shot, tells him 'While we're young,' and Eastwood turns and delivers that Dirty Harry glare Palmer's way.
The USGA has allied itself in its initiative with the GCSAA, PGA of America, R&A, Club Managers Association of America, National Golf Course Owners Association and the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Looks like a Chamber of Commerce Day at Merion Golf Club.
Sunny skies. Temperatures forecast for the low 80s. Tiger and the guys should get in some good work today at the East Course.
"It should be a good day today for the spectators," says superintendent Arron McCurdy, polishing off a bowl of Cheerios as the green department completes its pre-practice round chores (here's a picture of them returning to home base).
What is hard to swallow, though, is what could be coming next.
Storms, big ones, apparently are on the horizon for the first round of the 113th U.S. Open tomorrow. Although the East Course has been spared heavy rain since Monday, the 5.85 inches that soaked the place in the previous days has created lingering issues.
"That rain's going to turn everything upside down," McCurdy says. "We're wet. The more you roll, the more the water comes up. The more you mow, the water comes up. We have them rolled so much that maybe it'll run off. Regardless, it's going to stay wet near the top."
McCurdy says he can't control the weather. But he can be optimistic.
"We'll do everything we can to be ready," he says. "We have to."
Tonight won't be anything like Monday night for Matt Shaffer's crew at Merion.
"We're double-double cutting greens. Cutting and rolling fairways. Cutting rough. We couldn't do anything last night," says Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion, where this kind of major event named the U.S. Open begins Thursday.
Why such a change? Well, no rain today is a great place to start. After being pummeled with 5.85 inches of rain since last Friday, being able to go about their business was all Shaffer's bunch wanted, and they have their opportunity.
Yet asked if a dry day gets him caught up, Shaffer simply shook his head.
"We didn't get any further behind today," he says.
Shaffer has hoped all along to have the East Course fast and firm, but that possibility seems to be out of reach, at least for the moment. Especially since more storms could hit on Thursday when the championship starts.
"We'll get part of Thursday in," Shaffer says. "We'll be fast but not very firm. We'll be firm, but not firm enough."
Golfer Steve Stricker says, "The course itself is in great shape, and it's drying up slowly."
Shaffer isn't feeling sorry for himself. Not a chance of that happening, folks.
"I think our spirits are high, and we're ready to kick (three-letter word that rhymes with pass) and grow some grass," Shaffer says.
Follow me with Miguel Crespo. After all, he has the key.
Crespo, you see, is in charge of those iconic wicker baskets that adorn the top of the flagsticks at Merion Golf Club, home of this year's U.S. Open. In the maintenance facility area, Crespo walks you to an area away from all of the heavy equipment, a room with a gray door that he unlocks, inside a treasure of wicker baskets that are under lock and key for protection. Each night, they are rounded up and returned to Crespo's hiding place for them.
"We don't want anybody to steal them," Crespo, 74, says.
Nobody knows for certain when the wicker baskets first appeared on the scene at Merion, but it appears it occurred sometime between 1912-1915. Club historian John Capers says the first time the wicker baskets were mentioned in print was July 1915 in a Philadelphia newspaper. A year later, greenkeeper William Flynn secured the patent on the wicker baskets. Capers, though, also noted that Merion isn't the first golf course to use wicker baskets atop flagsticks, saying that Huntingdon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania and The Greenbrier in West Virginia had them before Merion.
As for how they ever arrived at Merion, the most common belief is that course designer Hugh Wilson got the idea for them on a trip to see golf course architecture in Europe.
So what do the pros think of director of golf course management Matt Shaffer's course at Merion Golf Club? The world's No. 1 weighed in today on the subject.
"It's a great golf course," Tiger Woods said.
Woods added that whether the golf course plays dry or soft, with the latter being the most likely, doesn't really matter.
"Either one, the execution doesn't change," Woods said. "You've still got to hit good shots and get the ball in play, especially now with the rough being wet. It's imperative to get the ball in play so we can get after some of these flags and make as many birdies as we can."
To the untrained eye, that gadget on the 17th green this morning at Merion Golf Club's East Course must certainly have looked like a bicycle tire pump.
It was, in fact, a device called TruFirm, designed by the USGA's Matt Pringle, Ph.D., and launched eight years ago at the U.S. Open. The purpose of TruFirm? It measures the firmness in different spots of the greens, which aren't so firm right now at soaked Merion, where 5.85 inches of rain has fallen since Friday as they prepare for the first round of the 113th U.S. Open that starts in about 48 hours.
TruFirm, sometimes referred to as The Thumper, works like this, according to the USGA: You pull up a piston, drop it, and a plunger the exact diameter and circumference of a golf ball thumps onto the green while a handheld computer reader attached to it measures the force of the impact.
Bottom line: TruFirm helps USGA Executive Director Mike Davis set up the golf course by giving him as much information and data as possible.
"It allows us to adjust the firmness by watering them if we need to," says USGA Green Section Director Darin Brevard, in charge of the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Merion Golf Club. "Before we had this, firmness was determined just by feel. We didn't have concrete measurements you could go on."
TruFirm is deployed mornings and in the evening after play is concluded.
Matt Shaffer planned to check out the 11th green late this afternoon to see if water had overtaken it. It was raining so hard at the time, though, he chose to skip it.
Closing time came early for Shaffer and his green crew at Merion Golf Club, site of the U.S. Open in Ardmore, Pa., where Mother Nature has parked a storm front overhead (see this image of the 16th fairway for proof).
Approximately 5.5 inches of rain has fallen on Merion since Friday, including another 1.5 inches already today and it may not be over yet. Shaffer (pictured at the far right) joined USGA Executive Director Mike Davis (center) and championship committee chairman Tom O'Toole Jr., in the Media Center a little over an hour ago to discuss some of the issues they face.
By that time, Shaffer already had made the decision to let his crew know there would be no mowing, no anything, the rest of the day.
"If we did something tonight, we'd destroy it," Shaffer says.
Instead, the crew will be back at it again bright and early in the morning.
Not all of the plaques at Merion Golf Club are dedicated to legends such as Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan.
As I was surveying the 18th green today, I noticed a plaque at the base of the flag pole. No, not the plaque for Jones, whose plaque on the 11th hole commemorates his capping the U.S. Amateur in 1930 to complete the Grand Slam. And no, not for Hogan, whose iconic 1-iron on the 18th fairway in the 1950 U.S. Open aided his playoff triumph just 16 months after an auto accident nearly killed him.
Instead, this plaque represents the exact spot where the club buried a time capsule Jan. 1, 1997. It is intended to remain unopened until 2047. That'll be the 50-year anniversary of its placement below the surface.
"I'm not even sure what they put in it," Bob Morey, a member at Merion since 1973, tells GCM.
Well, Bob, here ya go. Some of what is entombed:
U.S. Open programs from 1950, 1971, 1981; Richard Heilman's 1986 club history; roster of the 1996 members; Merion scorecards; and a letter from club president Rusty Sharp, intended for the club president in 2047.
Morey, who turns 66 on Thursday, laughed when asked if he thinks he'll make it until 2047 to see the time capsule unearthed.
"I don't think so," he said. "With this weather, I'm aging quickly."
Lunch time just ended for the grounds maintenance crew at Merion Golf Club. No doubt they worked up an appetite.
It's been a hectic day so far at the site of the U.S. Open. More rain, about an inch, brings the grand total from the last four days to nearly 5 inches. And guess what? It's raining again right now.
Yet when a reporter asked director of golf course maintenance Matt Shaffer if he thinks the East Course will play soft come championship time, Shaffer shook his head no.
"I beg to differ," Shaffer said. "Even if the greens are receptive, put 30,000 people out there, and fairways that are super narrow will get like a little ribbon."
Shaffer's crew has been pumping water out of bunkers, raking them and squeegeying in a multitude of areas. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, doing a TV interview on the 18th green a little while ago (pictured here), told the Golf Channel, "credit the maintenance staff."
Now that's a nice little shout out.
The issue now, even though golfers finally got to begin their practice rounds about two hours ago, is that more rain is expected throughout the day. And, yes, later in the week, too.
Major champion Ernie Els may beg to differ with Shaffer on what actually will happen later this week.
"You're not going to see a firm U.S. Open this year. I'm sorry," Els says. "I dont care if they get helicopters flying over the fairways; it's not going to dry up."
One of the underappreciated challenges for golf course superintendents hosting major golf tournaments is the amount of time they spend dealing with the media, both before, during and after their events. It's an amazing opportunity for the industry and the profession, but it can be daunting for superintendents trying to juggle a million other responsibilities during those times.
Case in point this week, obviously, is Matt Shaffer, the director of golf course management at Merion GC in Ardmore, Pa., the host of this week's U.S. Open. Despite a mile-long to-do list, Shaffer has still been making time to accomodate media requests from both near and far, including one from a radio station in Kansas City which interviewed the long-time GCSAA member for its weekly Sunday morning golf show. That interview is posted above.
With tournament week upon us and Mother Nature doing its best to change the storyline for Shaffer, East Course superintendent Aaron McCurdy and the rest of the maintenance team at Merion, those requests are only going to increase in frequency. We'll do our best here to keep you informed about those opportunities, if only to highlight the challenges facing those superintendents and, maybe, make them a little more appreciated going forward.
So what's happening at Merion Golf Club right now?
Flash flood warning. Golfers waiting to get on the course. Puddles.
The first day of practice rounds for the 113th U.S. Open have not yet begun (and they won't start until at least 10 a.m., a USGA official says). Heavy rains started around 7:30 a.m., right about the time director of golf course management Matt Shaffer's crew was completing its morning duties.
A soft East Course, nailed by 3.5 inches of rain Friday, is becoming softer by the second.
"It started raining right after we got done with our work this morning," says one of Shaffer's volunteers, Sam Butler, from Club at Mediterra in Naples, Fla. "Now we've got some runoffs and we are cleaning up puddles."
Merion's Dave McDonald, one of Shaffer's assistants and his information specialist, was in his office, checking radar on the computer. It looks like more rain later today.
"It doesn't look pretty," McDonald says. "We've been pumping out bunkers, a lot of cleanup. After we finished this morning, we usually would let them go back to the hotel or go home but we're keeping them here."
McDonald had no plans of stepping outside anytime soon. He had a good reason.
This was not your typical day at Merion Golf Club.
Bomb sniffing dogs searched the premises. Tiger Woods was in the house. And Matt Shaffer got a little bit misty-eyed.
More than 100 people from all corners of the world, including New Zealand, gathered around Shaffer at 4:30 this afternoon to receive their game plan for the upcoming week. As director of golf course management at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., Shaffer has been preparing for this moment for years.
Today, however, something was totally different.
"It seems surreal. I've been calm," Shaffer, a 33-year member of GCSAA, told those 100-plus people, many of them on his staff, the other volunteers for his crew. "But this morning it hit home that we might be having something here."
That "something" certainly is some thing.
The 113th U.S. Open is upon us, and Shaffer only can hope today's Chamber of Commerce weather holds up. That may be a dream, though. Rain, which pummeled the famed East Course with 3.5 inches Friday, is expected to surface again tomorrow and perhaps at least one more time later in the week. Although it has been able to dry up some in the past 48 hours, USGA Green Section Mid-Atlantic Region Director Darin Brevard expects the course likely won't be as fast and firm as the USGA and Shaffer hoped. The rough, though, will be tricky, at least 5 inches in spots.
As you read this post, GCM's very own Howard Richman is jetting toward Philadelphia and Merion Golf Club, site of this week's U.S. Open. And as we've done for the past eight years, Howard will be reporting from inside the ropes at Merion, offering readers our particular brand of coverage of golf course maintenance activites at a U.S. Open.
To get you ready for one of the biggest weeks in golf, here is a roll call of resources that will introduce you to Matt Shaffer, Merion's director of golf course management, and the team that will be preparing the famed East Course for this week's championship. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it's a pretty decent primer in advance to the things your see, hear and read in the coming days both on this blog and in the mainstream media.
What a difference a day makes at Merion Golf Club.
The rain has stopped, so little wonder that optimism reigns supreme for director of golf course management Matt Shaffer and superintendent Arron McCurdy as their crew tackled the East Course today in Ardmore, Pa., in preparation for the 113th U.S. Open that starts next week.
About 3.5 inches of rain pounded the East Course yesterday. At the time it looked bleak, for fear of flooding was a real possibility. It was such a concern that the USGA had Shaffer prepare two holes on Merion Golf Club's West Course, No.s 4 and 5, to be on emergency alert in case the 11th and 12th holes were unplayable for the championship.
A break in the weather has calmed those fears. McCurdy sure sounded way more upbeat than he did 24 hours ago.
"This place dries up pretty quick," he tells GCM. "I knew it would."
One look at the 11th green today at Merion Golf Club was enough for superintendent Arron McCurdy.
As the U.S. Open nears at Merion, remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea seem to have settled in over the East Course in Ardmore, Pa. McCurdy (pictured) tells GCM that 3 inches of rain pounded the historic layout today. As of 8:30 p.m. EST tonight, the rain continued. Earlier in the day, as he paid a visit to the flood-prone 11th green, McCurdy gave it little more than a glimpse. The sight of it was painful.
"I didn't even stay to watch it," McCurdy says. "It was 6 inches from flooding over the top of the green. We've ordered six emergency loads of bunker sand and will get after it in the morning."
McCurdy says the forecast calls for a few showers throughout the weekend, some wind, and Monday is supposed to be humid, which McCurdy laments because that could mean they may not lose as much moisture as they want. The bottom line is that Merion's chances of playing fast and firm don't seem to be in Mother Nature's plans at the moment.
Although he isn't worried that the contingency plan will be needed to use the fourth and fifth holes on the West Course during the championship if the 11th and 12th holes are damaged by floods, McCurdy says the recent turn of events has tested him.
"You get kind of disappointed after all of the hard work you put into this," McCurdy, a 4-year member of GCSAA, says. "We'll just get out there again at 5 in the morning, clean it up, go to work. It'll be fine."
The silence symbolizes the changes that have occurred at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.
"I used to be able to stand in the middle of the front nine and could tell where everybody was at and figure out if we were on schedule or behind schedule because I could hear the mowers," Paul L. Carter, CGCS, tells GCM. "Now, I have to go find them."
Carter, a 21-year member of GCSAA, certainly isn't complaining now that the top-ranked
golf course by Audubon International is even more environmentally sound. Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, a
state-operated golf course in Chattanooga, Tenn., has gone to an all-electric fleet
of golf course maintenance equipment.
Funds from the Clean Tennessee Energy
Grant program were used to replace gasoline-powered equipment with
battery-powered options, including greens mowers, bunker rakes, greens rollers
and utility vehicles. State government officials estimate the new equipment
will provide a 300 percent decrease in annual operation expenses and a 30
percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
A combination of the threat of Tropical Storm Andrea and the impending U.S. Open is causing the USGA to take precautions at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
Merion Golf Club superintendent Arron McCurdy tells GCM that his crew has been preparing two holes on Merion's West Course ... No.s 4 and 5 ... in case the par-4 11th and 12th holes are damaged by floods on the East course, which is the location for the 113th U.S. Open that begins one week from today. McCurdy confirmed that the USGA has asked Matt Shaffer, Merion's director of golf course management, to make those two holes on the West Course ready in a worst-case scenario. The storm is supposed to impact that part of the country through this weekend.
"I'm not really concerned at this point," says McCurdy, a 4-year member of GCSAA."They're calling for about 2 inches (of rain tonight and tomorrow). We already have missed a huge band of rain, so that was good."
The famed 11th hole on the East Course is in a flood zone, so this is no surprise that it is at risk, McCurdy says. No. 11, where legend Bobby Jones finished off the 1930 U.S. Amateur to complete the Grand Slam, "has been flooded 50 times since then," Shaffer told GCM earlier this spring.
McCurdy says the main issue when No. 11 floods is heavy silt. If that, or anything else troubling occurs, McCurdy and Shaffer know somebody's got their backs.
"We got calls from some of the other courses around here, telling us they'd send their whole crews over to help get us ready," he says.
This will be the fifth U.S. Open at the East Course, but the first since 1981.