The 13th hole at Merion Golf Club’s East Course. The par-3 will play a mere 107 yards. Photos courtesy of USGA
Merion Golf Club has quite a championship history. No doubt Paul B. Latshaw, CGCS, and director of golf course operations, has a past there — and he certainly had a hand in its future.
The present is what matters now at Merion GC. The historic facility in Ardmore, Pa., hosts the 42nd Curtis Cup that starts today and concludes Sunday. The international biennial team event matches the top female amateurs from the United States against
a combined team of players from Great Britain and Ireland. The event is organized by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient (R&A) Golf Club of St. Andrews.
This year marks the 40-year anniversary that Latshaw first worked at Merion GC. He was there in 1992, including as superintendent in 1998 for the U.S. Girls’ Junior. “It was my first time hosting a USGA championship. It was a lot of fun,”
says Latshaw, a 35-year member of GCSAA. “When I left Merion, I got to do a lot of things.”
Paul B. Latshaw, a 35-year GCSAA member, is the director of operations at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Photo courtesy of Paul B. Latshaw
That’s an understatement. Latshaw departed a year later and embarked on quite an industry journey that included famed Oak Hill Golf Club in Rochester, N.Y., where he was manager of golf courses and grounds during the 2003 PGA Championship; staff
agronomist for Nicklaus Design; a lengthy stay from 2003-17 as director of grounds operations at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, where Latshaw oversaw Jack Nicklaus’ annual PGA Tour event, the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday,
and in 2013 the Presidents Cup. Five years ago, Latshaw accepted the position at Merion GC when legendary superintendent Matt Shaffer retired.
The par-3, 148-yard No. 9 at the East Course at Merion GC is part of the 6,130-yard, par-70 layout.
Latshaw also accepted the immediate challenge of a major restoration on the East Course led by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner of Hanse Design that was finished in 2019 and now looks quite different than it did in the late 1990s. Greens were rebuilt to USGA
specs and are buoyed by the PrecisionAire HVAC system installed on all greens. Greens were placed back to one-16th of an inch of original contours and some greens were expanded to recapture original pin positions. Work was done on tees, approaches
and bunkers and new irrigation was installed. A new 650,000-gallon underground water basin located between holes 10 and 11 replaced the previous basin that held 175,000 gallons. The larger basin is nearly 8 feet underground with two execution points. Its
presence and enlarged capacity have significantly reduced Merion’s need for use of city water by as much as 65 to 75 percent at a facility that is Audubon International certified.
In all, Merion GC was closed for 18 months for the restoration. Now, it is time for its next marquee moment in a storied history that includes amateur icon Bobby Jones completing the single-year Grand Slam when he captured the U.S. Amateur in 1930. Twenty
years later and less than two years after a nearly fatal auto collision, the great Ben Hogan implemented that famed 1-iron he used in the final round to win the 1950 U.S. Open. This is the first Curtis Cup at Merion GC since 1954. There’re more
stellar events on deck. Merion GC, which is hosting its 19th USGA event this week, welcomes the U.S. Amateur in 2026 and has a combined four U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Opens between 2030 and 2050.
The familiar wicker basket hole markers are a sign you are at Merion GC.
Flanked by a crew that includes East Course superintendent Alex Bonini, Latshaw has gotten to share the Curtis Cup experience with his father, who knows a thing or two about majors. Retired superintendent Paul R. Latshaw, the GCSAA Old Tom Morris Award
recipient in 2017, stands alone in the industry having hosted three of the four majors: Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open. The son’s return to Merion had much to do with the father.
“By coming back, I got closer to him. I was eight hours away. Now he’s 45 minutes up the road,” Paul B. Latshaw says. “He’s been here recently. It was good to have him on the golf course. It always is. I owe him everything.”
Both of them know what the ultimate charge is now. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Curtis Cup or a U.S. Open,” Paul B. Latshaw says. “It’s produce the best playing conditions that we can.”
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.