Each year there is a competition to find the student greenkeeper of the year and this year that accolade has been going to TSG Partner club Muswell Hill and Deputy Head Greenkeeper at the north London Club – Kevin O’Neill.
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year 2014 was named just days before Kevin heads to Gleneagles to join other greenkeeping volunteers at the Ryder Cup.
Proud Kevin, pipped runners-up Tom Freeman from Kingsdown Golf Club and Wesley Lenihan from Ealing Golf Club.
The other three finalists who narrowly missed out on the top three were Aaron Bowen from Ipswich Golf Club (Purdis Heath), Andy Foulds from Wimbledon Park Golf Club, and Daire Higgins from St Andrews Links.
Kevin will head to America next year for a six-week study course at the University of Massachusetts and will also visit the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio all courtesy of Toro.
He will also get the chance to explore Toro’s Californian base. This year’s final had a celebratory air as a special event was held to mark 25 years of the competition.
The Rochdale-born greenkeeper, who attends Oaklands College, said: “I’m very proud, I put a lot of work into this! The final was an amazing experience. I don’t think there was much between the six of us.”
Kevin began his greenkeeping career at Gleneagles before spells as a groundsman at Charlton Athletic and Barnet football clubs. He joined Muswell Hill in 2008, and this week will head back to Scotland as he joins the rest of the greenkeeper volunteers for the Ryder Cup.
“When you look at the names of the previous winners and the careers they’ve gone on to have it’s brought home to me how important this competition is, it’s the highlight of my career so far. I can’t wait to head to America and before that, I’m very excited to be heading to Gleneagles.”
Matt Plested, Course Manager at Muswell Hill, said: “Kevin’s the best greenkeeper I’ve ever worked with, he’s so dedicated and professional. I’m so pleased that he will now get the opportunity to study in America because he deserves it. When he called me to tell me he’d won I felt like a proud parent on X Factor!”
In addition to his trip, all finalists will be given free BIGGA membership for a year and they have also all been awarded a place at the Turf Managers’ Conference at BTME 2015.
Before the final itself, a special event was held at Aldwark Manor Hotel, adjacent to BIGGA House, to mark a quarter of a century of Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year.
This unique evening attracted almost every winner in the competition’s history along with key figures through the decades. All the winners who attended were presented with a special watch as a memento.
Lely’s UK Managing Director Graham Dale addressed the attendees explaining how the competition began and how it has evolved before Euan Grant, 1994 winner and now Course Manager at Turnberry, outlined how much his win has helped his career and that of many others.
The speeches were concluded by BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton, who thanked Toro for their hugely generous quarter century of sponsorship, and Barry Beckett, Toro’s Senior Marketing Manager.
The Toro Company and Lely UK were instrumental in creating the awards with BIGGA in 1989, and have sponsored the competition throughout its entire 25-year history.
Barry added: “Toro and Lely are proud to be associated with such a worthwhile scheme that recognises young and rising talent in the greenkeeping industry. We thought it fitting to mark the awards’ 25th anniversary with a special celebration – bringing together winners, judges and others, past and present – and I’m delighted the occasion was such an outstanding success.”
Thanks to all the winners who travelled from far and wide to attend and everyone else who contributed to the event. Keep an eye out for an interview with Kevin, and full coverage of the final and the 25th-anniversary event, in October’s Greenkeeper International magazine.
Photo by Jonathan Powfirstname.lastname@example.org