Merion Golf Club still basking in afterglow, recuperating month after hosting 2013 U.S. Open

July 22, 2013 in 2-year, Alumni

Matt Shaffer couldn’t get the U.S. Open off his mind before it happened.

Nearly a month after the Open finished at Merion Golf Club’s East Course in Haverford, he now knows it’s an experience he will never forget.

“Once they announced the Open (coming to Merion seven years ago), it pretty much occupies your thoughts for years,” said Shaffer, Merion’s superintendent who has worked at the club for 11 years. “My whole premise was to have Merion gain control of the player’s destiny. I felt like 6-under and below would capture that. I thought if the winning score was 6-under that we would be successful.”

The course did better than that, as Justin Rose won his first U.S. Open with a final score of 1-over par.

“Personally, I can’t come to grips that plus-1 won the tournament,” Shaffer said. “The pressure the players are under is obviously an ally for the club, but they really struggled here.”

At 6,996 yards, Merion’s East Course is considered a short layout for PGA Tour players. Most U.S. Open courses measure in the 7,200-yard range.

“I didn’t think they would tear it up,” Shaffer said. “You have to think your way through every hole.”

Shaffer and his crew certainly dealt with their fair share of pressure during the week, working from about 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

“You’re dead tired but there is so much adrenaline, there is no time to worry about how tired you are until the Monday after the tournament,” Shaffer said. “We started prepping this prior to the (U.S.) Amateur (in 2005). So we’ve been running at breakneck speed for years. When you’re used to driving 95, what’s 120?

“But it was an enormous privilege to do this. I feel really lucky.”

And while he feels mostly recovered from the physical grind that presenting an Open championship takes, it will take much longer to return the course to its normal state.

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