Celebrating Terry Wharton: 40 years a greenkeeper at the same golf club

By Alistair July 10, 2020 07:47 Updated

A decade ago we profiled Terry Wharton, one of the longest-serving greenkeepers in golf, as he’d celebrated his 30th anniversary at Haydock Park. He’s now amassed 40 years at the same venue.

Terry Wharton, head greenkeeper at Haydock Park Golf Club in Merseyside, must be one of the longest serving greenkeepers in the industry and is celebrating 40 years at the club, having started the role back in April 1980 as a young man looking to cut his teeth in the industry.

Terry explains some of the changes that have taken place during his time here: “The early years saw limited machinery on the course with most surfaces cut with hand machines, except for fairways and rough that were cut with tractor and gang mowers.

“The top-dressing facility of a self-contained hopper supersedes the tractor, trailer and wheelbarrow that in the early 1980s you’d be lucky to dress greens with 20 tonnes throughout the year. Against 120 tonnes delivered in a two-month period in the spring at the present time.”

Terry Wharton

With all the advancements in technology and more televised golf events what has been the main change Terry has found during his career to date?

“The golfers’ desire for better surfaces has seen the staffing levels raised at most clubs compared to the early years,” he said.

“With busy clubs realising the work programme for the day needs to be completed quickly and efficiently before the golfers start their round with only the basic tasks being completed early afternoon. This point can be shown with our start times in the summer of 1980 we had an 8am start with a 5pm finish against present start time 6am with a 2pm finish allowing the greens team to complete most of the course set up before the course gets busy.”

Asked what his favourite part of his time at the club and Terry fondly states ‘the members’, and goes on to tell a pertinent story.

“We’ve had some real characters playing the game at Haydock Park none more so than Jack Padoue, who was one of the ‘old guard’.

“On arrival at the club one Monday dinner Jack was met with builders in the men’s locker room. Jack looked surprised – ‘how dare they work’ on the day he played, and it may affect his preparation on setting up for his four-ball. Jack’s four-ball was run to military precision and woe betide anyone getting in Jack’s way! So, the builders were told by Jack what was expected from them was he wanted a ‘quick clean efficient job and by the way turn that bloody radio off, don’t you realise you’re working at a private members’ golf club.’

“The builders came across Jack a few more times before they finished the work and were met with the same abruptness. On the builders completing the locker room Jack realised his key wouldn’t open his locker. On further inspection someone had accidentally spilled some super glue into the lock, we wondered who…”

Terry has many more stories as well as a vast knowledge of the terrain he has helped to maintain and then manage over the past four decades. Stephen Nicholson, business manager, reacts to the incredible landmark.

“Wow, 40 years. That’s longer than I’ve been on this planet. It’s a feat that’s rarely matched these days with more and more people opting to move from position to position to progress their careers. Terry’s loyalty has been at the heart of his longevity here. Alongside this what I am impressed with the most about Terry is his enthusiasm to continue to learn and develop. We’ve sent him down to Oxford to see how a different style of greenkeeping works, we’ve updated our systems so he now has a computer in his office, has access to Word, Excel and email whilst updating everything in the cloud along with an online planner in the form of Turfkeeper that tracks all shifts, financial planning of stock, seed, fertiliser applied and so on.

“It’s great that Terry continues to push for more and we look forward to continuing to work together for the next 40 years! You are a credit to the club, your profession and your family,” he said.

“Once this crisis is over we will no doubt have a proper celebration for Terry – in the meantime, thanks again for all that you do and keep up the great work.”

Terry has been forward-thinking for quite some time. A decade ago GreenKeeping profiled Terry, and he talked about sustainability, with words that seem equally relevant today: “I consider sustainable golf to be the best route to enable greenkeepers to create good surfaces. By using sustainable management, we have seen significant improvements to our green, which has helped to make them playable throughout the year,” he said then.

“When using these traditional methods, there is a great deal of evidence to prove that true firm greens can be achieved with the use of native browntop bent and fescue grass species in conjunction with the relevant cultural practices and the correct balance of fertiliser and water applications.

“It is also widely acknowledged that this type of programme reduces both environmental and financial costs, which must also be considered in these tough economic times.”

Back to today, Terry reflects on his time at Haydock: “The 40 years has gone quickly and I’ve been very fortunate to spend most of my working life in a beautiful landscape working with good greenkeepers and staff trying to
raise the standards and the playability of our course.”

Terry is a member of the British and International Golf Greenkeeping Association (BIGGA). Haydock Park was redesigned by James Braid and is one of the oldest golf clubs in England, dating back to 1877.


By Alistair July 10, 2020 07:47 Updated

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