PSU Grads Enjoy Success at Golf Majors

June 12, 2013 in Alumni

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Green, at least during the summertime, envelops State College. The mountains just beyond the roads, Old Main’s lawn, the myriad T-shirts leftover from State Patty’s Day – they’re all green. Green splashes so much of this town that the greenest and most lush part of the spectrum is likely to go unnoticed, this particular area being an acre or so on the northeastern edge of campus.

There, at the Penn State University’s Center for Turfgrass Science, grasses grow in all sizes and shades. Patches of synthetic turf also have their place. Near the front, the shortest, most subtle kind of grass rises barely above the ground. This is the grass manicured for the greens of a golf course.

For years, Penn State has produced many graduates who eventually take care of some of the world’s best golf courses, and the 113th U.S. Open and Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia this week further illuminates that connection. Matt Shaffer, a 1974 Penn State graduate, is director of golf course operations there. He maintains the course, continuing the circle of influence that has bound Merion and the Penn State turfgrass program.

At this point, you might equate the position of golf course manager/superintendent with Bill Murray’s character from the movie “Caddyshack”. In real life, Carl Spackler likely couldn’t find such a job (unless a course needed someone who specializes in gopher extermination). In real life, the best managers must learn a mixture of agronomy and business management when they’re in college. At Penn State, students can learn how to develop and manage turfgrass in a general way or for sports surfaces or with a focus on golf.

The significant stature of Penn State in the golfing realm has been demonstrated this year. In addition to Shaffer, the people in charge of taking care of the golf courses for the Masters РMarsh Benson and Brad Owen  at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia Рand the PGA Championship РJeff Corcoran at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. Рare graduates of Penn State. It is considered to be the first time alumni from the same school are superintendents at the three U.S. golf majors in the same year.

Read the full story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette