The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 13, 2013

Golf: Bird's eye view of U.S. Open


Daily Item

---- — By Karen Blackledge

The Daily Item

ARDMORE -- Matt Bird hopes to watch how the top golfers in the world maneuver through a golf course.

"I hope to see how they warm up and prepare for such a big event," he said, referring to the U.S. Open to be held Thursday through Sunday at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, near Philadelphia.

Bird, 25, formerly from Mayberry Township in Montour County, is an assistant golf professional at the club.

"This course has hosted more USGA events than any other U.S. course. This is our 19th USGA event and our fifth U.S. Open," he said.

"I'd love to meet every one of the guys -- I have such respect for their games and what they accomplish," said Bird, a 2006 graduate of Danville High School and three-sport standout.

A son of Cindy and Rodney Bird, he witnessed practice rounds. He will also handle some player registration the first few days of the event.

"In addition to that, I will serve as a starter on the first hole for practice rounds and I will be announcing players' names. They will be really cool," he said.

This is his fourth season at the course where he began working in May 2010.

"This is my first time to be part of the U.S. Open," said the 2010 Penn State professional golf management program graduate.

"I've had some incredible experiences with some of the PGA Tour pros and a golf channel commentator/analyst," Bird said in an email last week. "I was fortunate enough to meet and speak to PGA Tour Players Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Russel Henley and John Peterson. I was very impressed with how they handled themselves -- extremely respectful and courteous. In the afternoon, I was lucky enough to walk the golf course with Frank Nobilo, a golf channel analyst/commentator. It was his first experience at Merion and he instantly noted how unique the golf course is -- in his words -- 'perfectly imperfect,' words that I think are spot on. Mr. Nobilo appeared on the golf channel around 9 p.m. here at Merion and gave me a personal shout out commenting on my 'passion and knowledge' of the championship golf course."

"I work with a lot of high-profile athletes and celebrities and have had the opportunity to meet some of them. A few of the players have already come through practice rounds prior to the open," he said.

Most recently, he met Adam Scott who won The Master's.

He hasn't met Tiger Woods but said Woods played at Merion on May 28 "without many people knowing."

Merion was the last summer internship Bird served and he stayed on to work there. "I do a lot of buying for merchandise in the shop which annually has broken records and I love to teach golf one-on-one to students," he said.

He also completed three-month summer internships at Hershey Country Club, Olympia Country Club in Chicago and Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver.

He said Danville High School athleticdDirector Ron Kanaskie's kids influenced him to enroll in the Penn State golf program.

"Both his kids went through the program and said how much they enjoyed it," Bird said. "It really sparked my interest to see what it was all about."

He recalled playing golf at the Cherokee course, near Riverside, when he was 12. "My dad would drop me off and I would play all day until he picked me up," he said.

Cherokee closed earlier this year.

n Email comments to kblackledge@dailyitem.com.