With stormy weather a certainty all day Thursday, USGA officials are facing the difficulty of getting all 72 US Open holes in by Sunday. Once the rain clears out, the prospects look good for play to continue for the next three days – before more rain that’s anticipated for Monday. That might mean a 36-hole final on Father’s Day.
For now, all that Merion head groundskeeper Matt Shaffer can do is sit in his office, watch The Weather Channel and hope for the best. He’s looking at a spring that shows the morning storm with threats of lightning and 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain. “As long as we don’t get 2 inches, we’ll be OK,” he said. Outside, and in various break rooms, his staff of 50 and volunteer crew of 130 are resting, drinking coffee and just waiting it out, knowing that by noon they’ll be out there with squeegees, pumps and whatever it takes to get play going in the afternoon.
In all of this, Shaffer is helped by the advice of meteorologist Herb Stephens, who counts Merion among 70 clients he advises. Stephens knows weather and knows golf. After all, he caddied on Tour for years and was on the bag for Larry Nelson’s 1983 US Open win at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club.
“We’re looking at a two-act play here: a squall line followed by a low-pressure system,” Stephens said. “It should clear out and be high and dry by Friday.”
Back in his office, Shaffer is holding court with friends and fellow superintendents, some of whom are happy to rest their heads on the green air mattress that sits by his desk.
All Shaffer can do is wait it out and hope they can get their gear back on the course quick enough for more golf.