Story and Photos by Jason Bruno
2013 is all but expired, but I can't help but look back . . . it was another great year for the game and
for us at LinksNation. If you're reading this, I'd like to thank you for supporting the site. There were so
many great experiences for us in 2013, and I'd like to share a few of my personal thoughts and
recollections of our year.
Demo Day on the eve of the PGA Show - Orlando
The PGA Show in January is always a great week form an industry standpoint, but when you throw
in the grand opening of a world class golf facility (Streamsong Red & Blue Courses) in the same week
it becomes special. The people at Mosaic teamed with Kemper Sports to host a gathering of the world's
most respected Travel & Course reviewers, as well other golf journalists from around the globe.
Crenshaw at the opening of Streamsong
I was fortunate enough to be paired that day with Doak's Design associate Eric Iverson, his brother
Neil (who works for Horizon Sports Turf) and Canada's Rick Young, who writes on the business and
equipment side of the game for Score Magazine. We enjoyed a "chamber of commerce" weather day
that January morning, and aside from misplacing my camera, it was a flawless day for golf. Tom Doak's
Blue course at Streamsong did not disappoint, our review:
You learn much about a person after riding in a cart for a 5 hour round on the links, and truth be told, I
felt like Rick Young was a longtime friend by the time we hit the back nine . . . great guy. Eric Iverson
was incredibly insightful on the design and construction of the Blue and other Doak projects currently
in the works. When the day was over, I knew it was one to remember and as usual it was as much about
the people as it was the scenery. Later in May, I went back to play the Red Course, and all I can say is
Kudos to Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore on an amazing design.
Rick Young joined me on the Blue Course at the Streamsong Opening in late January.
Next was my one on one Q&A with Ben Crenshaw at the Allianz Championship just weeks after the
Streamsong Grand Opening. If you enjoy talking course design and architecture (I do), then Gentle
Ben will engage in great conversation . . . even after shooting 76, as I found out. We talked Payne
Stewart, '99 Ryder Cup, and of course, golf architecture & design. I've interviewed many tour players,
course designers, and superintendents . . . no doubt this was among my favorite moments as a scribe.
To read the interview with Ben Crenshaw:
The crew from the 1st Annual LinksNation Cup Team Matches held the first week in March at Mission
Inn and World Woods.
Just a few weeks later, we were at Isleworth covering the Tavistock Cup - which was a blast as usual.
After observing Adam Scott at Tavistock, I proclaimed that he'd win the Masters, nailed it . . .
but whiffed on the other 3 major predictions.
The next trip on the agenda was a week in Philadelphia, a course review at the Classic Donald Ross
design - Aronimink (pictured below), then a week behind the scenes at Merion for the U.S Open.
The uphill ninth at Aronimink
The week in Philly started with a day at Aronimink hosted by Head Professional Jeff Kiddie. I was
paired with Jay Sigel, Dr.Jim McGlynn and Asst. Professional Pat Clark. Great company and a top
100 classic Ross design on a gorgeous June day, another highlight for sure. Our Aronimink feature:
Later that same day, I was enroute to my meeting at Merion just 7 miles away. Certainly I was the
only scribe who was working behind the scenes on the hallowed grounds of the Wickerbaskets. Being
part of Shaffer's grounds staff was an honor, our first major task on the Monday before the Open was
one of damage control - we rebuilt the greenside bunker on the famous 11th hole (where Bobby Jones
completed the "Grand Slam" in 1930. Along with Matt Shaffer, who I consider a friend . . . the guys in
our group (all experts in Agronomy throughout the world) bonded during the week. Guys like Paul Porto,
Patrick Haughley, Tyler, Greg, Big Pat, Robert, Keith, Andy, Dave Petfield and my partner in crime from
New South Wales Golf Club in Australia - Dean Lenerth. Images from the 113th U.S Open at Merion:
Rebuilding the bunker on eleven
Robert, Dean, JB and Greg on our last night of tending to the turf at Merion
We worked hours before the sun came up each morning and finished long after the sun set every
evening. It was a hectic week with all of the horrible weather that hit the Philadelphia area that
week, but Matt Shaffer showed nothing but grace under pressure. One of the highlights of the week
was when the Golf Channel interviewed Shaffer the day before the championship began, Chamblee &
Nobilo asked Matt how he'd handle his course getting shredded by the best players in the world
(because of the soft conditions), he fired back and let them know that Merion would not only hold up,
but it would come out on top when all was said and done. The herd of grounds masters gathered at
the hotel watching on TV roared like the patrons at Augusta when Nicklaus nailed the "Yes Sir" putt in
1986. In the end, Merion was the true winner (as Shaffer predicted) along with Justin Rose. I made a
half dozen lifelong mates, all who were very proud of what they accomplished. Matt Shaffer somehow
motivated us by his commanding presence and our own need to help him finish the job. We all can hope
to reach his level of excellence in our professions. I hope to return to Merion in 2014 . . . to see the
place a year after the Open, but mostly to see my friend Matt Shaffer.
A great view of the fifth hole at Merion, I shot this photo from the tenth green on the Sunday evening
before the U.S Open.
In late August I traveled to Laredo, Texas for the media opening for the Max A Mandel course designed
by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Guest of Honor Nancy Lopez was another memorable interview, and is one of
the nicest people in the game. "The Max" sits along the Rio Grande on the Texas/Mexico border, and is
a unique signature course in an area starving for a first class facility. Again the memory was as much
about new friendship as it was of business . . . Jason Veretto of the Back Nine Network was a pleasure
to get to know. Feature on "The Max":
The par 3 - fifteenth at "The Max"
In 2014 we'll start off with the PGA Show, and then it's off to the media opening at the new Trump
Doral Blue Monster designed by Gil Hanse. Looking forward to another great year in golf, and another
adventurous year in the LinksNation.