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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Superintendent of the Year finalist: Matthew Wharton, Carolina Golf Club

There is no indication that Edward Murphy, the late aerospace engineer who conducted early work on rocket sleds and safety equipment for the U.S. Air Force, ever was a golfer. But if he had been, Murphy might have found Carolina Golf Club to his liking because the law associated with his name that states "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" was on full display last year at the club in Charlotte.

011819wharton.jpgIn a year that started with horrible weather, ended the same way and in between felt the effects of two hurricanes, including one that arrived on the doorstep of a USGA championship, Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, ushered the course through every challenge, pulled off a successful tournament, took on the role of president of his association and drew the admiration of many.

By year's end, Wharton had received 14 nominations for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta, comprising two members and a half-dozen fellow superintendents, including two former winners of the award.

"This past summer, Matthew and the staff at Carolina Golf Club held a tremendously successful USGA Mid-Amateur tournament just days after Hurricane Florence delivered close to 8 inches of rain to the Charlotte area with over 35 mph winds leaving the golf course in shambles and not up to USGA tournament specifications," wrote Paul Carter, CGCS at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay in Tennessee and the 2001 Superintendent of the Year. "With the hard work of Matthew's team, the course was repaired and made ready for USGA championship play."

Matthew Gourlay, CGCS,, at Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kansas,nominated Wharton because of his willingness to help colleagues along their respective career paths.

"His biggest impact with me personally is as a mentor," Gourlay wrote. "I have phoned Matthew once a week for the past year. He is always available to conversate and provide guidance on life and golf course operations."

For all he does for others in his profession, Wharton admits the story for 2018 at Carolina Golf Club was all about the weather.

Carolina Golf Club, along with Charlotte Country Club, was one of two sites for last year's mid-am. Months before the tournament was played in September, Wharton laid three truckloads of new sod when, for the first time in three years, winter injury left in its wake wide areas of dead Bermudagrass.

He was much more than just an excellent golf course superintendent who was making sure greens and fairways were mowed and bunkers were raked," Maffitt wrote. "He was a valuable contributor on almost all aspects of the tournament's logistics.

That was followed by what the National Weather Service says is one of the 10 hottest summers ever recorded in Charlotte. Wharton said the temperature at the golf course never dipped below 70 degrees at night for 90 consecutive days. Then the week before the tournament, Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas coastline on Sept. 14 near Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Seemingly suspended, the storm spun for days and eventually dumped 7.16 inches of rain on Sept. 15-16 at the golf course, which is the most Wharton's seen there in a 24-hour period in his 14 years at the club.

"A course that was perfectly conditioned for a major event was now flooded with downed trees and debris everywhere," wrote Carolina member Ed Oden. "I cannot even begin to recount the amount of work Matthew and his crew put in over the next three days to transform a storm-ravaged course into major championship condition. Truly unbelievable."

Club member Ben Maffitt served as co-chairman of the mid-am committee, and worked closely with Wharton and the USGA on tournament logistics. That included everything from recruiting volunteers to deciding the best location for portable restroom facilities, Wharton was involved every step of the way, leading Maffitt to detail his accomplishments surrounding the tournament as follows:

> he successfully prepared the golf course for a major national amateur championship, overcoming some unique weather challenges only days before the commencement of the tournament;
> he was a very helpful partner with a wide variety of other logistical requirements unrelated to turfgrass management as we prepared to host a major national championship;
> he actively and effectively participated in the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association, and provided excellent leadership to that organization;
> he consistently provided excellent communication and updates on status of the golf course and our efforts to prepare to a major national championship to the membership of Carolina Golf Club;
> he brought an even-handed, thoughtful, and professional approach to every task that he was required to address.

"He was much more than just an excellent golf course superintendent who was making sure greens and fairways were mowed and bunkers were raked," Maffitt wrote. "He was a valuable contributor on almost all aspects of the tournament's logistics."

Edited by John Reitman

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