Donald Steel, GTC’s Chairman led the tributes at a luncheon hosted by the GTC at Aldwark Manor where the GTC and BIGGA have their offices.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You will no doubt be aware of a fierce thunderstorm approaching the Aldwark area. I can only think the Good Lord has got to know about David’s retirement and is not happy about it.
Anyway, a warm welcome to you all and thank you for coming. You will not be surprised to learn that we have received many apologies and regrets from those who couldn’t make it but, looking around, we seem to have all those who really matter.
I must apologise for committing the unforgivable crime of interrupting your drinking but I do so mindful of the day of a General’s Inspection during my short and inglorious Army career when, having given our immaculate display of precision drill, AND HAD MARCHED PAST, we were invited to gather round the saluting base so that the General could address the troops.
I remember nothing of his remarks except for his opening which, for the height of pomposity, takes a lot beating. He said, I’d just like to say a few words BEFORE I start to speak. I do not intend to speak, so to speak, this lunchtime. I give you my pledge to be shorter than the Chilcot Enquiry but I do want to say a very few words on this AUSPICIOUS HAPPY/SAD occasion.
Sad that David has saddled up his horse ready to ride off into the sunset even if he looks far too young to retire.
Happy that we are celebrating the fact that he leaves behind a highly distinguished working legacy for training greenkeepers in which we have all, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, been fortunate to have played some part.
I don’t need to enlarge for I know I am preaching to the converted but, I am sure you agree, it is a remarkable story.
There is a modern belief that the past doesn’t matter. Some say it is old hat. They contend it is only the present that counts. I agree you can only deal with situations as you find them and there is always a duty to try and shape the future but, without the past, there would be no present. David has acted as Education Director of the Greenkeepers Training Committee for 23 years and has presided over an industry that has been transformed thanks to his dedication, vision and persuasive example.
Greenkeeping has always been hard graft and David’s practical background as a greenkeeper meant he could speak from experience. To me, greenkeepers are on a par as a willing and unselfish brotherhood -or now sisterhood- with our lifeboat men and National Hunt jockeys. They never complain about their plight, they deal with the unexpected, they keep unsocial hours, and are driven to help others but David belonged to a generation of greenkeepers that wanted something better and, more poignantly, fought hard to achieve it.
He was one of the campaigners in the creation of BIGGA and, through BIGGA and the Home Unions, the GTC. Today, greenkeeping has become the job of a lifetime -for a lifetime. Many have never thought of doing anything else, eager to learn their trade and to have the qualifications to enable them to master the responsibilities they face. And they are very good at it and, what is more, are delightful people.
More than half the art of any tuition is getting the message across and here David’s presentation skills, scrupulously honest approach and genuine understanding have contributed enormously to the success of the GTC.
It is symbolic that the new All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf should have been established a year before David’s impending retirement because Parliament’s awareness of the apprenticeship scheme is, in no small measure, down to his pioneering efforts. The GTC has always been an apprenticeship scheme and David mounts his getaway horse after building up the GTC from modest beginnings into a notable national and international force.
More cogently, the training of young greenkeepers is perhaps the only thing from which all golfers, young or old, good or bad, man or woman, boy or girl, amateur or professional, benefit.
In the 60 years or so of my involvement in golf, greenkeeping has scaled the heights rather in the way that the playing of the game has done. There have never been more good greenkeepers or more good players and, watching the thrilling final round of the Open on Sunday made me reflect that, in that time, the first prize in the Open has risen from under a thousand pounds to over a million.
Greenkeeping salaries haven’t quite kept pace but they are getting there. I wish I could be handing over a cheque for a similar sizable amount to David but, instead, the GTC would like to present David with a print of St Andrews where he and I first met at one the R&A’s Golf Course Committee meetings.
Here, I must thank Fiona for all her good offices behind the scenes and for all the invitations and arrangements for today’s lunch. As I have said, you will understand many have had to send their apologies and tributes to David. If we had had a full complement, we would have had to have hired Old Trafford.
Fiona has always been a comforting presence at David’s side, a duo that have made my Chairmanship an absolute joy and so it is with pride and delight that I present this Print to David, to wish him a happy birthday and a long and happy retirement and to thank him on behalf of the game and several thousand of greenkeepers for his supreme contribution to its welfare, enjoyment and efficiency.
Greenkeepers Training Committee www.the-gtc.co.uk