This was not your typical day at Merion Golf Club.
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.
"We're doing this Open in honor of Stanley," Shaffer says. "He was a really good friend of mine. We're going to kick (insert three-letter word here), and then smoke a cigar for Stanley."
Volunteer James Nicol, CGCS, is doing this for Shaffer.
"I went to school with Matt (at Penn State). Being at Merion is one thing," says Nicol, a 34-year GCSAA member who worked majors at Hazeltine. "But being here for a classmate who is in charge of this is really cool."
Before cutting them loose to begin their duties, McCurdy let the crew and volunteers know breakfast goes from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. this week and lunch is from 10 a.m. to noon. He also emphasized that security in wake of the Boston Marathon bombings have intensified, including this U.S. Open.
"They're big at Homeland Security with everything that happened in Boston," McCurdy says. "If something doesn't look right, report it."
Shaffer added one final thought. You could tell by his face and his voice it came straight from his heart.
Merion assistant Patrick Joy indicated that if the volunteers channel some of the staff's enthusiasm, this operation will be a force.
"The energy everyone creates has everybody feeeding off of each other,"Joy says. "Everyone knows their role, and that makes life easier."
Just before 6 p.m., the greetings and speeches were completed. It was time to get to work. Greens mowers, fairway rollers, were on course, doing their thing, as the sun drenched the East Course.