Pete Newton, Course Manager at one of Europe’s longest golf courses, is celebrating after he became the 66th BIGGA member to achieve Master Greenkeeper status.
Pete supervised the construction and grow-in of the course at Rockliffe Hall in County Durham – which only opened six years ago – and has played a key role in its meteoric rise to prominence. The championship course, which measures 7,879 yards from the back tees, has hosted the PGA English Senior Open and the Matchplay Final of the William Hunt Trilby Tour plus various charity events.
Pete began his greenkeeping career as a trainee at Rochdale Golf Club in 1997 while studying a HND in Turf Science and Golf Course Management at Myerscough College.
He then had spells at the Marriott facilities at Forest of Arden and Worsley Park, gaining vital tournament experience at the English Open and the British Masters, before moving on to a Deputy Head Greenkeeper role on the Brabazon Course at The Belfry.
In 2008 he joined Rockliffe as Head Greenkeeper, and was named Course Manager last October. He heads a team of nine greenkeepers and a mechanic plus four seasonal greenkeepers and four members of staff from the estate.
He said: “I’m obviously really pleased, the first thing I did was tell all the guys here who seem pretty chuffed for me. They’ve put a huge amount of effort into this course and this achievement is as much to do with them as it is me.
“We’ve come a long way, from seeding all the greens and using a Portakabin as an office in 2008 to creating something that so many golfers say is an amazing course.
“It’s been a real challenge. When I first arrived here everyone said we would never be able to sustain creeping bentgrass greens because it’s too wet in the north east. But we’ve proved them wrong and we’ve had so many fantastic comments on the surfaces here from professionals and amateurs alike.”
BIGGA’s Master Greenkeeper scheme is the ultimate qualification for BIGGA members who have reached the highest standard in greenkeeping and golf course management.
It’s a three-stage process involving the awarding of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits for education, training and experience, then an assessment of the candidate’s golf course which is carried out by two Master Greenkeepers.
The final stage involves the completion of a case study and a technical exam which is then marked by a panel of assessors.
Pete joins an illustrious list which features greenkeepers from across the UK, Europe and the world. Only 66 have achieved the qualification since the first MG was awarded in 1991.
He added: “The exam was quite difficult because I haven’t sat an exam for years. I don’t think I’ve ever typed so much in my life! I probably spent about five hours a week revising, the key was working out which were the most important subjects to concentrate on.
“We’ve had so many positive comments from golfers here, but I wanted to get an official qualification from a greenkeeping body which confirms that we’re heading in the right direction at Rockliffe.”
Pete was a member of the 10th BIGGA Delegation (sponsored by Bernhard & Co) to the Golf Industry Show in Las Vegas in 2012, and credits some of the other MGs on the trip with inspiring him.
“Dan McGrath, Alan Pierce, Stuart Yarwood and George Pitts were all on that trip and were either already MGs or were studying for it. Their encouragement and enthusiasm was a big factor in persuading me to have a crack at it, and I’m very glad I did. I would encourage any greenkeeper who is thinking about going for their MG to have a go!”
Pete was also a mentor at the recent Future Turf Managers Initiative made possible by Jacobsen, where up and coming greenkeepers focused on making the career leap to Head Greenkeeper or Course Manager are tutored by a range of industry experts.
More details on the Master Greenkeeper scheme can be found by visiting www.bigga.org.uk clicking on ‘Education’ and then the ‘Master Greenkeeper Certificate’ tab on the left hand side.
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