Major reflections: A look back at the 2022 U.S. Open

The Country Club’s David Johnson shared lessons learned and the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone at the annual NERTF conference and trade show.


Grounds crew at The Country Club
David Johnson, GCSAA Class A director of grounds at The Country Club, discussed lessons learned from hosting the 2022 U.S. Open at this year's North England Regional Turfgrass Conference and Show. Photos by Scott Hollister

David Johnson doesn’t hesitate when asked whether he enjoys the view eight months after playing host to the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., better than the one he had eight months prior to the event.

“It’s way less stressful, that’s for sure,” says Johnson, the GCSAA Class A director of grounds at The Country Club and a 23-year association member.

But he also makes clear that response doesn’t mean Johnson didn’t enjoy the experience and the opportunity he and his team were given last June. “I'd definitely do it again. It was so much fun. The relationships we built and just the experience we were able to have with that group of people, to be successful with them and work as a team. It was awesome.  And obviously the championship was great.

“But I think I'll wait a couple years and take a breath before the next one. Maybe grow some of this hair back,” he says with a laugh while rubbing his bald head.

At last week’s New England Regional Turfgrass Conference and Show, Johnson and Kristen Lacount, CCM, The Country Club’s general manager and COO, took a deep dive into their U.S. Open experiences in “The 2022 U.S. Open: How it Went and What’s Next,” one of the featured presentations that played out to a standing-room only crowd inside the Providence (R.I.) Convention Center.

Johnson and Lacount took attendees inside preparations for the event, shared tales of what worked and what didn’t as it relates to both championship logistics and agronomy, and tactics they used to keep members and other key stakeholders informed and involved throughout the run-up to the championship.

David Johnson and Kristen Lacount
Johnson and Kristen Lacount, CCM, The Country Club's general manager and COO, discussed their experience hosting the 2022 U.S. Open in a presentation titled "The 2022 U.S. Open: How it Went and What's Next"

In a conversation with GCM following the presentation, Johnson shared what took place after the tournament and how he and his team dealt with “post-championship depression” as they helped the circus leave town and returned the course to club members.

“It’s real. I saw it firsthand,” Johnson says of the hangover following the Open. “We even tried to coach the guys about that before the event and re-emphasized it right after. But it was still something we had to deal with. We also had some key people who left for other jobs right after the championship, too, so that was a factor.

“But luckily, we were able to power through. For the most part, we were able to stick together, focus on just going one day at a time, and I think we were able to manage all of that about as well as I could have expected.”

Johnson also emphasized how much the experienced changed him as a turfgrass manager and opened his eyes to the value of certain things — mainly, data collection and proactive communications — that he hadn’t given much consideration to before.

While Johnson said he and his teams regularly used tools such as moisture meters and Stimpmeter readings to guide maintenance decisions before the Open, the USGA’s advanced use of data, particularly as it related to greens management, showcased just how beneficial new technology can be for superintendents, whether they’re preparing for a major championship or daily play at a public golf course.

He also saw the positives for the entire operation generated by open communication during the months leading up to the event, driven largely by Lacount and The Country Club’s communication and marketing teams. Johnson and his top assistants were called into regular duty to appear in videos that talked about changes to the golf course and maintenance practices as the Open drew closer, tournament build-out that would impact club members and a host of other topics, all designed to keep stakeholders informed and make them feel a part of the process.

“I’m not comfortable with those kinds of things normally, just not confident in getting in front of a camera,” Johnson admits. “But it is important, and it does work. It does get easier, but you do have to get out of your comfort zone.”

Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.