Life-changing award for Jason Norwood: Having the confidence to make a huge career move and the knowledge to back up key decisions in the job are two of the benefits Jason Norwood says winning the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award in 2019 have had.
As Reesink Turfcare, award sponsor, and BIGGA announce the finalists for the 2021 competition, the timing is perfect to see what winning greenkeeping longest-standing and industry-leading awards has brought to Jason and his career.
The first is a life-changing one, he says: “By far the biggest difference winning the award has brought to my life is the confidence to make the big decision to leave my job in Harrogate and move countries to take the course manager job at Reay Golf Club, Britain’s most northerly 18-hole link course, in Scotland.
“I couldn’t visit the course before accepting the role due to COVID restrictions and I took the job knowing I would go from being one of nine in my previous role to working mainly on my own with help from volunteer members. But I knew it was the move I had to make to gain experience on a links course and put my newly acquired knowledge to the test.”
The newly acquired knowledge Jason is referring to comes from completing the turf management study course at the University of Massachusetts as part of the prize for winning the award.
Jason says: “The course and the experience were fantastic. They’ve given me the belief that what I am doing is right and I’ve got conviction in the decisions I make with the knowledge I acquired. As the only person tending the course, I’ve got no one to refer to so this is an essential quality to have in making day-to-day decisions.
“When I started at Reay, there hadn’t been a qualified greenkeeper on the course for 20 years and so very little science had been used when it came to fertiliser applications. This was something I wanted to change and have a programme dedicated to help maintain a healthy playing surface.
“One of my favourite lectures at UMass were those on soil. Being able to use the knowledge I gained from the lectures has been incredibly helpful and made it easier to understand how best to work towards giving the plant the correct amount of nutrients when required.
“My main achievement has been the definition and consistency of cutting I’ve been able to bring to the golf course. The amount of positive comments I’ve received about how the course is looking is really pleasing and hopefully overtime the changes being made to the fertiliser programme and with a few more additions of equipment will only make the course perform even better.”
At Reay is a small but perfectly formed Toro fleet, comprised of three Greensmaster 3250-D greens mowers, a Reelmaster 3100-D triplex mower with SideWinder and a Groundsmaster 4300 mower. Jason says: “The next new addition will hopefully be a new fairway mower. I’ve recommended a few other additions that will not only improve the the course, but also make it easier for the volunteers to mow areas of the course safely when they provide help during the growing season.”
So what about advice for this year’s shortlisted candidates for the Finals? “It’s an opportunity to grab with both hands,” he says. “You will learn so much and meet so many great people. Be yourself. Focus on your strengths and don’t force the situation. Lastly, enjoy it. It can literally be a life-changing experience.”
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards finals will be held on 6-7 September 2021 at Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.
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