Niagara Falls CC recovers in time for Porter Cup

Friday, July 25, 2014

LEWISTON, N.Y. – The winter in the Northeast, specifically at Niagara Falls Country Club here, was one of the worst in recent memory, with record-breaking low temperatures and snowfall from December to mid-March.

Extensive course damage challenged new superintendent David Meteer. The bowl-shaped greens – a Robert Trent Jones signature – froze and thawed several times during the winter in western New York. The dramatic temperature swings – 55 one day and below zero the next – caused the most damage, leading to frozen greens and damaged turf.

Ultimately, 19 of 21 greens died, included the putting green, chipping green and the putting surface on the course's extra hole.

Only the greens at Nos. 2 and 12, which were rebuilt over the past three years to conform to USGA regulations, survived the winter. The closing stretch of the par-4 15th, par-3 16th, par-4 17th and par-3 18th showed some signs of life.

The Poa annua greens weren't the only part of the course, a 1916 A.W. Tillinghast design, that were adversely affected. Every fairway sustained turf damage.

“Ice melts from the bottom up, so when the ground thought it was time to breathe again, it couldn’t,” said assistant superintendent John Meteer, David's brother. “There was still a foot of ice on No. 5 green in the middle of March.”

After Dave Meteer assessed the damage, he and his brother came up with a plan: cover the putting surfaces with tarps and artificially heat the greens.

As temperatures rose above freezing, tarps were laid over the greens on April 2-3. After two weeks, the grounds crew removed the coverings and reseeded the greens with bentgrass, then reinstalled the tarps to provide heat for the seed to take root. The tarps stayed on 24 hours a day until the end of April, when the greens were fully germinated.

With a little more time to heal, the greens were opened May 30, just 12 days before the Women’s Porter Cup.

“What a tremendous job he (Dave) and his staff did,” tournament director Steve Denn said.

Dave Meteer concedes that the Poa annua will return because the wet soil common in this part of the Northeast will encourage the grass.

The grounds crew also rebuilt the fourth green to conform to USGA regulations. The green opened only two weeks ago. The recent Women's Porter Cup used the extra hole instead.

The plan is to continue rebuilding the rest of the greens over time.

As for Dave Meteer, his first few months as superintendent were “stressful, but fun at the same time.”

He insists that the course, especially the greens, is ready to go for the 75-player field this week for the 56th Porter Cup.

Here is a preview for the tournament, which begins today.