Eric Johnson has been the director of agronomy at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. since 2012. As the head superintendent responsible for the care of the course, he has seen, and overseen, a lot, with the most high-profile being the 2015 U.S. Open and subsequent changeover of the course from fescue to Poa.
This past week, the U.S. Women’s Amateur came to town, and Eric brought in a little extra help to get the course in shape for the national championship – his four sons.
Two of the sons were already on staff at Chambers Bay. Tate has been the equipment technician for the past year, maintaining all the mowers; and Ryder has been working the grounds for five years, with the first four spent as a landscaper before joining the course’s greens crew last year.
Grady, just 17, came on board just a few weeks ago and will stay through the summer, before he returns to Peninsula High School in nearby Gig Harbor in the fall.
And Reece is the assistant superintendent at Salt Lake Country Club in Utah. He was brought in specifically for this championship, and specifically to spend time with his dad and his brothers because it was his 25th birthday during the week of the championship.
All in, the Johnsons have been working together at Chambers Bay, preparing the course for the championship, for three weeks. And during the championship week, they logged some long hours.
“It’s about 20 hours a day during an event like this,” Eric said. “They’d get up at 1:00am and be on the mowers by 1:30, cutting the fairways and greens, and the tee boxes, raking the bunkers, all that stuff, to get the course ready for the day. They’re done by 5:30am or so. When the players and championship staff start showing up, we’re gone.”
Eric was the superintendent at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort for nine years before coming to Chambers Bay. He studied turf management at Oregon State University, and son Reece also studied there before taking his job at Salt Lake CC.
Something of a family business, you might say. Lucky for Chambers Bay, and lucky for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.