Salem Country Club Golf Course Superintendent Kip Tyler and “his assistant” Molly inspect the 18th green.


Kip Tyler, Salem Country Club’s golf course superintendent/miracle worker for the past 35 years, looks out at the 18th fairway and smiles. The grass is, for the most part, green and lush. After a drought-plagued summer of 2016, the classic Donald Ross-designed links came through winter just fine.

That’s a far cry from the last time Salem hosted a major championship, the 2001 U.S. Senior Open. Grass on most of the putting surfaces was dead. The turf on about a quarter of the fairways was brown.

“Even the winterkill damage to the putting green was devastating. It was 99 percent dead,” said Tyler.

For much of that winter, frigid temperatures followed heavy rains. The damage was so severe, the course was closed to members until late May.

“We had to get the grass growing again,” said Tyler.

And in just a month the best senior players in the world, led by the Big Three of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, were going to tee it up in the Senior Open. The tourney would be televised throughout the world on NBC.

Tyler and his crew aggressively nursed the course back to life. It drew raves from competitors and fans alike.

Salem is one of the busiest private courses in New England. Its 375 members, spouses, and another 100 or so golfers on a waiting list, played about 25,000 rounds last year.

“Things are starting to pop,” said Tyler.

“The grass is thin in some areas, but the cool, wet spring has been OK. The rough is growing. Each day the course gets better. It’s getting warmer and a nice sunny day is good for soil temperature.

“This isn’t bad,” added Tyler, the king of humility and understatement. Truth is, the course looks spectacular. When defending champ Gene Sauers, Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer and others arrive in late June, the course should be in optimum condition.

Photos: Spenser Hasak

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