Thursday, August 04, 2005

Merion's problems are issues for many courses

Here's an clip from a story in the Philly Inquirer about the problems facing Merion, which is now shut down in the hope they can get the course together for the US Am. Apparently this is a big issue facing a lot of Canadian clubs as well -- St. Thomas is really struggling, for example. An industry source says it could be a bad year to be a superintendent -- because the conditions will mean a lot will lose their jobs, whether they are responsible for the problems on their courses or not.

Anyway, from Philly:

On Saturday, Merion, battling cauldron-like heat and humidity, decided to close the showcase East Course until the Amateur."It has been a hell of a summer," said Bill Iredale, the Merion member who is chairman of the club's championship committee. "The water, the temperatures, the humidity."The two-week breather will spare the course from the traffic of almost 2,000 rounds and give superintendent Matt Shaffer and his staff a free hand in battling the ravages of pythium blight.Pythium and bacterial wilt, diseases that kill and discolor grasses on greens, fairways and in the rough, have been giving superintendents from Virginia to the Poconos fits. Both are triggered by the rare combination of extreme heat, humidity and abundant rain.Yesterday, as he looked out over the 18th fairway at Merion, Shaffer called the region's battle with pythium bad."You get a 41/2-inch rain like we did on the 16th of July and it's like growing grass in a bathtub but the cork won't come out," Shaffer said. "It is the worst of the worst."Merion, with its large staff and budget, is better off than many courses. Four holes had been splotchy from the blight, but Shaffer had the resources to replace the turf. He also has the luxury of a budget that won't be bankrupted by $4,000 chemical applications, which won't last more than a week.Still, with the heat failing to relent and with Merion wanting to shine during Amateur week, Shaffer is hardly relaxing."There's an old axiom that when the temperature and the humidity add up to 180, you're going to get pythium," Shaffer said. "I can tell you, it has been well north of 180."

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