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.
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."
Stevens, who more than three decades ago was the second meteorologist to appear in the first hour of programming the day The Weather Channel debuted in May 1982, is here providing Shaffer and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis with his findings.
They must not like what they hear.
"Tomorrow is a matter of pick your poison," says Stevens, absolutely certain it will rain, and it could be a whole lot, perhaps as much as 3 inches. "If it goes north, we could be muggy, get hail, probably a tornado watch. If it comes right over us, it could be a little cooler with heavy rainfall. Twenty-five miles separates which one we could get. Either way, severe weather or rain is an issue. It's a slam dunk we'll get at least an inch of rain. It could be two or three inches easy just as well."
Any chance it'll miss Merion?
"No," says Stevens, adding he expects the rain to come possibly as early as daybreak.
If anyone knows what it takes to prepare for a major, it's Ken Mangum, CGCS, who oversees Atlanta Athletic Club. Mangum, who stopped by today to see Shaffer (being interviewed here in this picture by a local TV station) and the golf course, was host to the PGA Championship twice, including 2011.
"I feel for Matt, but he's handling it like a pro," Mangum says. "I just hope he doesn't have to fix bunkers. Nobody likes fixing bunkers after it rains."
Shaffer and East Course superintendent Arron McCurdy have faith in their staff and volunteers totaling nearly 150. And they believe in Shaffer and McCurdy. Even more importantly, they seem to believe in each other.
"We've got some of the best people in the world here, from superintendents to agronomists who have come from all over," says part-timer Dennis Donahue. "If this group can't hold it together, nobody can."
McDonald added, "We've got the right group of guys."
The crew did not mow this evening. The fairways, though, were rolled. And tomorrow morning, at 4:30 a.m., they will be out there again for the big day. As for Stevens, well, he will keep an eye on the weather throughout this evening. He knows what's at stake. We're not sure if he was serious about this next part, though. Probably not, right?
"If we don't have bad weather tomorrow, I'll be unemployed," Stevens said.
Relieved? Those would be the people whose wish that Stevens is wrong comes true.