Greenkeepers recognised at BTME awards

By Alistair January 27, 2024 15:46

Several greenkeepers have been recognised and rewarded at a ceremony in Harrogate during the BTME exhibition.

The team at Dudley Golf Club received the Greenkeeping Project of the Year sponsored by Origin Amenity Solutions. Leading a team of just three, Stewart Marshall has brought the Midlands golf club back from the brink by using innovative and often cost-free sustainable solutions. From being on the verge of closure prior to the pandemic, the team has transformed Dudley with little or no budget into a thriving venue, just in time for the club’s 130th anniversary.

Examples of development work include: Asking for unwanted wooden planks from a local timber yard for the construction of bridges and reusing old materials to create flower beds and pathways; engaging with local schools to enhance and promote the ecological offering of the site; and hosting fun social events in the clubhouse to raise money for equipment.

The Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Association’s (FEGGA) CEO, Dean Cleaver, who spent decades providing opportunities for his peers across Europe, won the Outstanding Contribution of the Year award.

He began his career at The Leicestershire Golf Club and later became head greenkeeper at Rugby Golf Club and then Stratford-upon-Avon Golf Club. He first joined the committee of a greenkeepers’ association aged just 17 and in 1996 became the British and International Golf Greenkeeping Association’s (BIGGA) youngest-ever chair, aged 38.

In 1996 he led the formation of FEGGA and has acted as executive officer ever since, building a network of organisations to promote greenkeeping and enhance the support available to turf professionals, whether a country has thousands of golf courses or just one. Today FEGGA unites 23 associations around the world, including the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the Turfgrass Managers Association of South Africa.

Dean will step down from his post when he retires later in 2024.

At the BIGGA Celebration sponsored by Jacobsen, hosted on the opening evening of the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME), Dean was presented with the Outstanding Contribution award sponsored by Jacobsen, in recognition of a half century of commitment to supporting his fellow greenkeepers.

BIGGA chief executive Jim Croxton said: “During a 50-year career, Dean Cleaver has shown an unwavering commitment to uniting greenkeepers, no matter their golf club’s location or standing in the game. Possessing a work ethic instilled in him at The Leicestershire by his mentor, Paddy McCarron, Dean spent decades supporting the activities of first the British Golf Greenkeepers Association and then BIGGA when it was formed in 1987.

“His commitment to a Europe-wide project led to the formation of FEGGA in 1996 and that has provided a network that links established associations such as ours with those in countries where golf is still an emerging sport.

“Dean’s legacy will be felt for decades to come and in this, the year of his retirement, BIGGA could not be prouder to present him with our most prestigious accolade, the Outstanding Contribution award sponsored by Jacobsen.”

Walton Heath Golf Club won the ‘Championship Greenkeeping Performance of the Year’ award sponsored by Bernhard & Company for the exceptional conditions displayed when hosting the US Open Golf Championship Final Qualifying in May 2023 and the AIG Women’s Open in August 2023.

Following the news the club would be hosting the only UK-based women’s Major championship in 2023, a pest infestation and prolonged drought devastated turf quality at the historic Surrey venue, ultimately leading to the installation of a new irrigation system. Vandalism further damaged playing surfaces but the team worked extra hours – often working under floodlights – to repair the damage. Delays slowed progress but the greenkeepers stepped up and took on responsibility for reinstating turf on top of daily maintenance and other project work, eventually completing installation a full 12 months after the contractual end date.

The winner of the Amenity Sprayer Operator of the Year award was also named as Dan Waring of JCB Golf and Country Club in Staffordshire.

Meanwhile, the British and Irish greenkeepers travelling to TPC Sawgrass to volunteer at The Players Championship in March met at John Deere’s BTME stand as they prepare for the experience of a lifetime.

The seven-strong contingent was selected to be part of the programme organised annually by John Deere in partnership with the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) and the Association of Turfgrass Professionals Ireland (ATPI).

At the tournament in Florida they will get the unique opportunity to work alongside greenkeepers from around the world, gaining invaluable experience of elite championship agronomy as they prepare the course for the world’s best golfers.

The 2024 BIGGA volunteers are Aidan Wright (Camberley Heath Golf Club), Adam Brackley (La Grand Mare Hotel), Colin Hopper (Elsham Golf Club), Ian Kirwan (Chorlton-cum-Hardy Golf Club), David Feeney, (Prestwick Golf Club), and Adam Champion (Bearspaw Golf Club, Canada). The ATPI’s chosen representative is Lorcan Finnegan (Malahide Golf Club).

At the BTME event in Harrogate the volunteers from Britain and Ireland met each other for the first time and spoke with John Deere’s golf and turf experts about what to expect from trip.

Chris Meacock, John Deere’s division sales manager for Golf and Turf, said: “The TPC Sawgrass experience is just a few weeks away so the excitement is building among the group.

“Professional development of greenkeepers is fundamental to both the individual and to the golf courses they will work on during their careers. There can be fewer better ways to test their skills and learn from others than by being part of The Players championship.”

Volunteer David Feeny, who is the deputy course manager at Prestwick Golf Club, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity which I can’t wait to take part in.”

Lorcan Finnegan, who is a greenkeeper and mechanic at Malahide Golf Club in Dublin, said: “To have won a place on this programme feels like a dream. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done and learnt as a greenkeeper so far, but TPC Sawgrass is going to be on a different level.”


By Alistair January 27, 2024 15:46

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