Next time Chris Kennedy walks into the IOG SALTEX show, perhaps a cry of ‘Nice to see you Chris, to see you nice’ should ring out to welcome someone who has one of the most enviable jobs in golf, writes Colin Hoskins.
As course manager at Wentworth Club, Surrey, he rubs shoulders with such golfing luminaries as Ernie Els and Sam Torrance, as well as entertainment greats like Russ Abbot and, of course, Bruce Forsyth, who all live on the verge of the hallowed holes.
All Wentworth courses have an illustrious tournament pedigree. The West annually hosts the HSBC World Matchplay and BMW PGA Championship. The inaugural Curtis Cup was played on the East and it was the setting for a match that then became the Ryder Cup in 1953.
Chris Kennedy is in charge of “everything to do with” three championship courses – the East, West and the Edinburgh – as well as the nine-hole short course, the driving range and, what many probably don’t realise, a host of other sporting facilities such as pitch and putt, 14 tennis courts and landscaped gardens.
He heads up a team of 47 greenkeepers, grounds care professionals, irrigation workers and landscapers, most if not all of whom will visit IOG SALTEX at some stage during the three-day event.
“The show is very handy for me and the team – it’s literally on our doorstep,” he says. He attends the annual extravaganza every year along with his team, although not all at the same time, he stresses.
“We visit at various times throughout the event,” he explains, “staggering the visits to best fit in with the schedule here.”
IOG SALTEX is held as close as it could possibly get to the iconic club without actually being there – Wentworth is almost a next-door neighbour to the Windsor Racecourse, but Chris Kennedy is a `regular` at the show for more reasons than mere convenience.
“Attending the event keeps me up to scratch with new developments. It’s a major meeting for the machinery and equipment manufacturers and for model launches,” he explains, as he recalls a visit there in 2006.
“I came away armed with information about Primo MAXX and have since tested it on our tees and greens to good effect.”
Wentworth also trialled Syngenta’s new online weather forecasting system, which he says can help highlight disease-prone areas around the courses and, as a predictive tool, can give an indication of when spores are likely to become air-bound.
But Wentworth is more than a world-renowned golf venue, he stresses. “As a residential estate, we have to be particularly mindful that those who live around the course can do so with minimal noise and visual disturbance. When the club has such an exclusive membership, diplomacy has to be a key skill.”
In charge of an undertaking on the vast logistical scale of Wentworth, he knows better than most the organisational task of staging something as large as IOG SALTEX.
“There’s a lot of thought put into what they do there,” he remarks. “I also liked the Skills Village that was launched last year. Overall the event represents a great opportunity to meet socially as well.”
While striding out among the peace and tranquillity of Wentworth’s lush surrounds and beautifully landscaped acres, Chris Kennedy can be forgiven for yearning for life `on the other side` as a member rather than as a service provider, albeit at a golf club in the world’s premier league.
In post since 1989 and now aged 60, so eligible to hang up his managerial attire for a surely less demanding life, he shows no inclination to do so.
“The job keeps you on your toes. The standards here are very high,” he states matter-of-factly, concealing what must be a great love of all things Wentworth.
If ever seeking inspiration to carry on though, he need only bring to mind the staying power of arguably Wentworth’s most celebrated member and local resident – Bruce Forsyth. The enduring liveliness and energy of this versatile and ever popular performer, now 80, may give Chris Kennedy grounds for believing he can thrive for a long time yet in a role that sometimes sees him walking almost within earshot of the sharp-witted octogenarian.
Who knows, if he ever did retire to enjoy life as a Wentworth member, he may even be blessed to hear those famous words sound out from a house nearby in praise of his managerial efforts: “Didn’t he do well!”
Register NOW at www.iogsaltex.co.uk to receive your FREE entry badge and information about IOG SALTEX, or call the Ticket Hotline for FREE tickets on 0844 557 2724.
IOG SALTEX 2008 will be held on 2-4 September at Windsor Racecourse, Berks, and will embrace fine turf and sports surfaces, turf maintenance equipment, children’s outdoor play and safety surfacing, landscaping, contractors, commercial vehicles, outdoor leisure and facilities management, as well as software and security equipment.
The show is attended by open space management professionals and contractors – from groundsmen and greenkeepers through to play officers, architects, designers and surveyors as well as local authority and outdoor leisure facility managers.
IOG SALTEX www.iogsaltex.co.uk