|Springfield Country Club|
|Do everything all at once and more often.” That’s Chad Dorrell’s mantra in the days leading up to the US Open Final Qualifying at Springfield Country Club. When the golf world turns its eyes Springfield, Ohio, just 50 miles west of Columbus, Chad leaves no stone unturned and no weed unpulled.|
For 11 of the last 13 years, Springfield CC has been a Final Qualifying event for the US Open. It’s a field of dreams for golfers that have only 36 holes of golf standing between them and a berth in the US Open. The championship in 2021 started with 9,000 competitors, and 75 arrived at Springfield CC on June 7 to compete for seven spots at Torrey Pines.
To talk to Chad Dorrell is to understand why the USGA continues to return to Springfield every year. He is calm and measured and takes great pride in the golf course he presents to competitors, not just for the qualifier, but every day. His mindset in preparing for the US Open final qualifier is that the task is rather simple because one day events are less taxing than multiple day tournaments. The window of time to get the course into tip-top shape is smaller for the Final Qualifier, which Chad appreciates. “We aim to have it peaking Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday.” In contrast, a four-day amateur event means keeping the course in peak condition for a week.
Where the challenge comes for Chad and his staff is the string of events Springfield CC hosts in a short window of time: its own Memorial Day tournament, the Final Qualifying, and a Member-Member. That three week stretch means he and his staff have to work hard to dial in the course so it’s consistent and excellent for each event. The bright side is that Chad’s adds to his staff in June as students finish up their school year and look for summer work. However, those new employees need training in the midst of a very busy time of year.
Many would think that this would be a pressure packed, anxious time for Chad and his staff; however, he sees it completely differently. He’s excited by the prospect of the course being showcased to the country. It’s one of 11 qualifying sites in the nation. He came to Springfield CC in 2003, but he earned some experience preparing for a final qualifier at DoubleEagle in Columbus as an Assistant Superintendent.
With final qualifying more accessible to interested fans than ever due to social media and Golf Channel’s wall-to-wall coverage, the time is ripe for viral videos of any sort of on-course disaster; however, Chad knows how to avoid the train wrecks. The Donald Ross greens, which cant and slope at harsh angles, can become unyielding in the blink of a stimpmeter, so Chad commits to ensuring the greens don’t get out of hand, “We had them rolling at 11.8 on Monday. That’s about as fast as I’d ever want them.” He knows the importance of pin locations, too; making the first hole’s pin location somewhat accessible speeds up play and keep players on time. 36 holes is a long day, and the goal is to make sure players are not coming back Tuesday to finish their round. Sometimes the weather might force play into Tuesday, but Chad makes every effort to ensure the set-up isn’t the reason a player is setting an early alarm for Tuesday morning.
The largest stamp of approval for Chad is that players return year after year to Springfield CC. Brian Stuard might be the Springfield CC whisperer, clinching five straight US Open berths at the course; an exceptional feat. Players like Zac Blair and Troy Merritt have also been open in their praise of the course. Chad recalls Blair hanging around in 2019 after he qualified snapping pictures and thanking everyone he could.
Chad knows it’s the little things that make a big difference, trimming under the trees and weeding, making the course tidy and pristine for golfers. His voice lifted when he recalled a compliment he received about the course. He was told the course was the cleanest under the trees that he’d ever seen. The little things matter, not just for the top players but also for the members and guests playing Springfield CC the rest of the year.
Superintendents are like referees, they only get noticed when bad calls are made. Chad doesn’t make many bad calls, and when he does, he listens and understands where players are coming from. When he received feedback about a tough pin on the fourth hole that “caused a few train wrecks,” he said the critique seemed fair and filed it away for future events. He takes his role seriously as he understands that hopes and dreams are on the line for each of the players.
Final Qualifying is also an opportunity for Springfield to showcase some community pride, so the entire community gets involved. The Chamber of Commerce provides lunch to the players and locals come out to the course to watch the golfers chase a dream. It’s a point of pride to have Springfield on the golfing map on “Golf’s Longest Day.” Through attention to detail, hard work, and a positive, measured attitude Chad and his staff have found a way to keep Springfield CC and the larger community on golf’s radar.