Seeding is Believing

June 10, 2013 in Alumni

Merion GC superintendent Matt Shaffer, allergic to grass in his youth, needed grass more than ever eight years ago. The decision to grow grass helped secure his biggest reward: A U.S. Open. 

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, one in five Americans suffer from allergies. Merion Golf Club director of golf course management Matt Shaffer is one of those five. He is allergic to, among other things, nuts and soap.

And – believe it or not – grass.

“When you’re fighting for your breath, that’s scary,” says Shaffer’s sister, Beth Long, who vividly recalls her younger brother’s brave battle with health issues, which included golfball-size hives. “I think Matt is like, ‘If I can overcome that, I can overcome anything.’ He proved to be pretty tough.”

How ironic is it, then, that Shaffer desperately had to have grass in his life nearly a decade ago?

Shaffer, firm in his belief and fiercely dedicated to his profession, has helped restore historic Merion’s place in golf lore. All eyes are on Shaffer’s East Course, located in Ardmore, Pa., site of the 113th U.S. Open that begins June 13.

If Shaffer had not remained steadfast, this U.S. Open may never have come back to Merion, a golf mecca drenched in history, featuring a USGA-most 18 championships.

Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam there in 1930; there’s a plaque honoring Jones on the 11th hole, where he won his U.S. Amateur match final. Merion also is where legend Ben Hogan’s comeback from a near-fatal auto accident 16 months earlier resulted in a remarkable U.S. Open playoff triumph in 1950.

Fast-forward 55 years. It was 2005 and Merion Golf Club was set to host the U.S. Amateur. The grass, though, was dying.

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