This year saw the highest number of applications ever for the BIGGA/Bernhard sponsored trip to the USA, and the standard was exceptional.“The exposure and publicity year on year ensures that we get good numbers of the top people applying to go on this trip and after 12 years it has become known as a major event in the industry calendar,” said Stephen Bernhard.
The ten selected delegates share their first reactions to finding out they’d been selected.
Andrew Laing (pictured) has been the Course Manager at Gaudet Luce in Worcestershire since 2004. He joined the club in 1999 straight from school and said, “I love my job. To be honest I was brought up on a golf course, my Dad was a golf pro, and my brother and I played golf as soon as we could walk, more or less. We always knew we were destined for the industry.
“One of my earliest memories as a toddler was on a golf course and I remember visiting Orlando on a family holiday when I was a young lad. It was in February and the GIS was on. My father pointed it out to me when we drove past on the way to Disney, and I thought, I’d much rather be going to GIS than Disney!
“It seems like such a different industry in the States so it will be really nice to get a bit of insight into how things work out there. I’m looking forward to taking part in the education seminars and talking to other Course Managers.
“I have played golf in Florida but I’ve never seen behind scenes and observed what seems like 20 green keepers working on every hole. I have a team of about ten including part- timers. Imagine how it would be with 50 or 60 to look after!”
Jaey Goodchild is the Course Manager at Bowood in Wiltshire, said: “I guess the main things that I am looking forward to being part of the delegation are the chance to spend the week with the group. I enjoy the team spirit that develops within a group when you are away. Seeing the latest developments and varying techniques that turf managers use in the US is also of real interest as we have different budgets, legislation, climates and customer expectations, both the course visits and the show are perfect opportunities for this. Finally the chance to meet people from around the world as well as bump into some familiar faces.”
Dave Collins is the Course Manager at Lickey Hills on the outskirts of Birmingham. “I was absolutely chuffed to bits when I heard I was going on the trip. To be honest I applied and put it to the back of my mind and when I got the call I thought – this is serious. I enjoyed the process of the interview. I have been in this job for 15 years, and in the business for over 30 years and sometimes you need a challenge to stretch the grey cells. I am really looking forward to meeting the other 9 Greenkeepers, and the American Superintendents. I am interested in seeing how we do the same job in different conditions, and of course hearing their ideas.
“I run Twitter and Facebook for Lickey Hills and so I do communicate with guys from the US already and we both get a lot out of shared ideas and interests.
“My wife, Nicki is a member of Wives of Turf, which was set up in the USA as a support network and she finds the communication with her American counterparts really helpful. I am sure we all experience the same issues wherever we are. I am looking forward to this trip on so many levels. I’d say it is the highlight of my career.”
Steven Hemsley (pictured), Course Manager, Bolton Old Links, said, “I applied last year for the first time because I’d spoken to a couple people who’d been on the trip and they said it was very worthwhile going for it. I was very surprised when I got the place and I’m very excited about going. I’m interested to see Florida and how the golf courses are with different grasses, pests and diseases and see how they overcome their problems and challenges.
“I’ve been doing my job for a long time but there are always new theories and things to learn. I’ve been to Harrogate a number of times but the GIS is on a different scale so it will be interesting to compare.
“We are in an industry that is renowned for sharing ideas. There aren’t many secrets, but it will be nice to know how the Americans overcome their problems and also to share information. It’s a very friendly business and there are always people on the end of the phone.
John Entwistle, has been Head Greenkeeper at Roehampton for 6 years. “This is the first time I applied and I couldn’t be more grateful to be going.
“I worked at the Double Eagle Club in USA for a couple of years as part of the Ohio State University Programme so I have an insight into how they do things in the US. At the time everyone talked about GIS but I never managed to get there.
“It’s the research and educational seminars that captivate me. You can never learn enough. We are a very stable crew at Roehampton and everyone has a 5-year training plan. If one of us attends a training session or seminar we come back and do a presentation to the team so that they all benefit. A lot of greenkeepers prefer to keep information to themselves, but I feel that if you share you get fresh ideas.”
Tom Brearley is Assistant Greenkeeper at Sunningdale. ““This is the first time I’ve applied so I was ecstatic when I heard I was going. I am sure a lot of guys in our industry would love to go, so I feel it is a privilege and an honour to be representing British greenkeepers. I have heard such great things about the trip from people who have been in the past – particularly the visits to golf courses, so never having been to the US before they will be great to see.
“We are a big organisation at Sunningdale so again, I am really interested to see how the Americans manage their big teams on a day-to-day basis and see if there is anything we can learn from them.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the other guys, meeting American superintendents, and seeing the scale of GIS and of course their education programmes.
“It will be interesting to compare with BTME, which this year is really moving forward with standards and the number of speakers. It’s a real testament to BIGGA and the companies who invest in it.”
Geoff Fenn (pictured), Course Manager, Bedford & County has been at the club for 12 years. “I love my job. I’ve been here a long time and its great to see the course develop over that time. The members are great and take interest in what we are doing,” he said.
“I was interviewed twice before for this trip so I am over the moon about being selected. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am most looking forward to visiting some of the American courses. I’ve never been to USA and their golf courses always look so immaculate, so I’m interested to know how they get such a great finish.
“The other thing I am intrigued by is the specialist measuring equipment that they use to measure the performance of greens, the greenness of the greens, and apps which tell you about the health of your turf.”
Gavin Neill, St Andrews Links Trust, Deputy Course Manager, said, “I was very proud to have been selected. Ever since I was young I’d wanted to visit the show. I worked in States but never got to GIS so I am looking forward to the whole experience, being around other greenkeepers and superintendents and learning by the whole experience.
“I worked in New York and South Florida as an intern before coming to St Andrews – things were very different and they have such big budgets in USA. The top clubs want US Open conditions all the time and we were working sun up to sun down, but it was an amazing experience to work with such big numbers of people and to experience the extreme heat and cold of New York.”
Paul Mills has been at Penn Golf Club for 6 years and is their Course Manager. After 15 years in the job he still loves it. “It can be testing at times but when you step back you realise how lucky you are to work outside, producing a product that people appreciate every day and it is very enjoyable. I like the interaction with members and it gives them a greater understanding of the course they play.
“I am really delighted to be going on this trip. I’ve never been to USA and it was my first application. After talking to Stuart Yarwood (2012 Delegate) I really wanted to be selected, so when I got the call I was completely bold over.
“This is the perfect trip to spend time with people from BIGGA, Bernhard and American greenkeepers. I’m interested to see if my perceptions of USA are right. I get the feeling their golf clubs are driven by the business model with a lot of funding and in many cases, big maintenance teams. I’ll get back to you on this one.”
Paul Armour (pictured), Head Greenkeeper, Lochgelly Golf Club, Fife, said, “This was the first year that I applied for the USA trip so I am really chuffed and excited. It will be such a great experience meeting greenkeepers from USA, learning about how they work, their different weather conditions, irrigation and grasses, and I know that the quality of their seminars are excellent so I’m really looking forward to attending lots of those.
“Fife is a small golf club with just 250 members. It’s my first job as Head Greenkeeper, I’ve been here 3 years and I love it and take huge pride in the presentation of the course. I make a point of going to lots of events and meeting lots of people. It would be easy to feel isolated in this job, so I will try to meet as many people as possible at GIS. It will be very interesting to see what the differences are in terms of the way we work.
Steve Nixon, Bernhard’s European Business Development Manager said, “We interviewed a very impressive bunch this year. They can go to the USA and we are confident they will hold their own with any of the top Superintendents from around the world. I am really proud of the calibre of professionals that we are producing in this country.
“The exposure we and BIGGA have given to the trip over the years means that we continue to attract some really good people and we have to work hard to keep that standard high. The number of applications has grown year on year and that can only be a good thing.”