At U.S. Open, The Grass Man Has the Power

June 14, 2013 in Alumni

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and the rest of the world’s best golfers aren’t the only ones sweating the start of the U.S. Open, which begins at the Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia Thursday morning. For one man at Merion, the tournament is a career culmination, a chance to finally display his craft in a major championship. “It’s like you’ve waited your whole life to play Bobby Fischer in chess,” says Matt Shaffer, superintendent at Merion.

Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association (USGA), has called the golf course superintendent “the person that is most important to the success of a U.S. Open.” The superintendents make sure the greens are fast enough, the rough high enough, to challenge golfers, while negotiation weather conditions that can wreak havoc on the event (rain has soaked Merion in the days before the Open, and the forecast calls for plenty more). And Shaffer, an affable 60-year-old from a small town south of Altoona, Pa., is one of the best. “These guys are scientists,” says Davis. “They are studying soil samples, trying to figure out how many gallons of water per minute to run through the soil, looking at dirt under the microscope. Among superintendents, Matt is a bit of an icon. He’s someone a lot of these guys look up to.”

Read the rest of the article from Time magazine