Pitch perfect at Holwell Sports

Pitch perfect at Holwell Sports: Carel Fourie has been named the United Counties League Groundsman of the Year after the Welby Road turf impressed judges.

“It’s a great honour. As a Division One side, winning the award which also includes the Premier Division is a great honour,” said Sports chairman Graham Lewin.

Pitch perfect at Holwell Sports

Pitch perfect at Holwell Sports

“We’re very proud of our pitch – our whole ground – and the work Carel does is exceptional.

“When opposition teams come to us their first thought is always ‘wow, what a pitch’.”

Mr Fourie – who is aided by Ed Pearson, Bill Harding and Graham Parker – was delighted with the accolade.

“I felt very happy, it was a very proud feeling” he said.

“It’s always nice when the club gets praise for the surface. We work hard to keep the pitch looking nice all the time and if you put in the hard work it pays off and you get your rewards.”

Mr Fourie – a groundskeeper of 14 years – has been with the club for three years and previously worked at Stapleford Park Golf Club.

He describes his job as a ‘passion’ and has been lovingly tending the pitch and the adjacent training area during lockdown.

“We’d be ready to go tomorrow,” he added.

“It wouldn’t be perfect, but we could play football on there now.”

Mr Lewin added: “On the Saturdays we aren’t at home, our academy sides can play on the main pitch.

“As you can imagine, they love it. It’s like playing at Wembley for them.”

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Shotts GC vandalised just before opening

Shotts GC vandalised just before opening: Yobs on motocross and quad bikes have senselessly torn up putting greens at Shotts Golf Club causing more than £1000 worth of damage.

The turf on a number of the course’s greens and tee points was left scarred and scored, with motor oil spilt on it.

Shotts GC vandalised just before opening

Shotts GC vandalised just before opening

News of the damage to the course by the louts left club captain Brian Harvie feeling distinctly below par.

He said: “We think the same guys were on the course a couple of weeks ago but didn’t do much damage.

“This time it was on the Sunday and they came on from the Harthill side, the Forestry Commission roads side, and got on to the course there.

“There’s a couple of houses overlook the course and they do their best to keep an eye on it.

“It was between 3pm and 4pm they took the bikes on, vandalised four or five of the greens and some of the tees.

“If it was the fairways then it wouldn’t have been as bad.

“They were seen heading out on to Benhar Road and turning left to go back towards Shotts town.

“We have two greenkeepers working but it’s difficult to police. It will take about three or four weeks to repair properly.

“Normally there would be people playing but at the moment it’s just like an empty big park.

“We have people walking round and we don’t mind that, it’s a nice place to walk. People do it respectfully and don’t cause any damage.

“A few weeks ago we even had a family up having a picnic and the kids were playing with the sand in a bunker, but they didn’t do any damage.

“We went eight or nine weeks with the course not being used without any vandalism so it’s really disappointing.

“The clubhouse is a great focal point for the Shotts community and has a great reputation. It’s well known for its food, its Sunday lunches and value for money.

“Everybody knows everybody in Shotts, it’s a great wee club and a friendly wee golf course. The sign on the way in says ‘The Friendly Club’, that’s how it’s known.

“We kept the green staff working during the last three months and didn’t furlough them, to keep the course in good repair so when we do get back to playing it was in good condition.”

Greenkeeper Graham Watt now faces a race against time to get the course up to scratch following Scotland’s First Minister’s decision to allow people on to the country’s courses to play golf again from tomorrow (Thursday).

“It’s a big job to repair it but I’ve been working away on it,” he said. “One of the greens also has oil on it. I’ll need to keep an eye on it over the next few days to see how it goes.”

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Greenkeeper celebrates 30 years

Greenkeeper celebrates 30 years: Darren Hargreaves is celebrating 30 years as the deputy head greenkeeper at Skipton Golf Club.

He has been involved in golf as an occupation virtually since leaving Greenhead Grammar School in Keighley, now University Academy Keighley – although he did initially “dabble” with a course in engineering.

Greenkeeper celebrates 30 years

Greenkeeper celebrates 30 years

“I soon realised engineering wasn’t for me as no way did I want to be tied to a bench all my life,” he said.

Darren instead teed-up a lifetime career in golf by embarking on an 18-month Youth Training Scheme at Riddlesden Golf Club.

He then became a greenkeeper at Chorley Golf Club in 1984 – following his parents, who had moved to live on the other side of the Pennines.

But Darren was keen to return closer to his roots, and secured the deputy head greenkeeper post at Skipton.

Over the past three decades, he has been involved in all aspects of course management and maintenance at the Short Lee Lane site, as well as ongoing improvements.

He and head greenkeeper Ian Brown have between them been responsible for maintaining the course in peak condition during the coronavirus lockdown.

Darren said the closure of the course had enabled them to “crack on” with work, but that they were delighted play had resumed.

Tributes to Darren and his 30-year achievement have flooded in.

Mr Brown said: “Darren is a highly-experienced and key member of the team.

“He also has a great sense of humour, which makes him popular with the other greenkeepers.

“He’s a real attribute to both course and club.”

And the club tweeted: “We want to pay tribute to Darren Hargreaves, a member of our greens team who has just completed 30 years’ service at the club. Outstanding and a great credit to his profession. Thank you Darren from all the members.”

The club’s board is planning to mark his milestone.

Darren also enjoys a round of golf himself.

He first started playing at the former Riddlesden club, winning a major trophy there as a 15-year-old.

He says he plans to play more when he retires ­– hopefully when he turns 60, in five years’ time.

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Grounds for concern at Barnsley

Grounds for concern at Barnsley: The sight of footballers taking the field for league matches in June – a time when the sporting calendar is usually focused on cricket, the Queen’s Club Championships and the Epsom Derby – would be incongruous for many.

Not least for Barnsley’s head groundsman David Anderson and his counterparts at a number of stadiums across the country.

Grounds for concern at Barnsley

Grounds for concern at Barnsley

Traditionally, the close season – when most footballers are usually found on a sun-kissed beach in the Mediterranean, Florida or Dubai taking in some rest and recuperation at end of a long campaign – is the busiest time for groundsmen as they utilise the period to renovate playing surfaces and make them pristine for the start of the new campaign in August.

A player is not usually in sight, certainly not until the first week of July when pre-season normally commences.

But with Covid-19 having wholly changed the itinerary for football in 2020, this summer promises to be a strange time, not least for those who maintain playing surfaces and training arenas.

It also means that many planned major repairs may well have to be put on the back burner.

Anderson told The Yorkshire Post: “For players to actually be playing will be a strange one for everybody concerned.

“Everybody is used to doing things in the off-season and everything in that period.

“Summer football might not be too bad with nice weather, but from our side of things, it will be weird.”

On an uncertain time, he commented: “Not knowing what is going to happen this season and next season, it does affect everything.

“It is like with the renovations that we would like to do at the end of the season. We normally get to the end and are planning to do all those. It (usually) means completely stripping the pitches back and starting again.

“Dane (Murphy – Barnsley CEO) and Rob (Zuk – finance director) have allowed us to do some of the training ground, but with regard to Oakwell, we just don’t know yet as we don’t know what will happen with this season.

“We had big plans to try and improve things, especially the training pitches and Oakwell.

“Oakwell has struggled a little bit this year, especially with that bad weather we had. It has not been a good year for anybody. I speak to a lot of groundsmen and everyone is in the same boat.

“We were hoping to get the go-ahead to get our irrigation and drainage improved a little bit.

“But it is not the priority at the minute. There is no money coming into the club as such and the renovations are not cheap.

“I understand it and everyone understands it is a freak thing and this is not something we have dealt with before.”

For Barnsley and other clubs, it is a case of make do and mend with extended repairs scheduled for the summer being put on hold, with the focus being on safety and making surfaces playable if not perfect.

In training, that involves disinfecting surfaces and equipment, one of many protocols taking place to help make it as safe an environment as is possible.

Anderson continued: “The club have been good with me and allowed me to keep coming in and we social distance, which is fair enough and we clean the machines down after we have used them. We are trying to do the best we can with what we have got.

“When it comes to equipment, everything will have to be disinfected. Everything we are touching or using, machine-wise, we are trying our best to keep it clean as the best we can and wash our hands as they keep telling us.

“Before this got as bad as it did, the club were putting hand sanitiser everywhere and we have plenty of that when we come in and go out and everyone is keeping to the advice.

“On our training pitches, our academy are usually on the bottom pitches and it is quite intense and the pitches get a lot of hammer and don’t really get a rest.

“This gap with nobody being on the pitches has helped quite a lot, but, to be honest, you need to renovate them to get them back to 100 per cent. But needs must and we must try and make do the best we can.

“This time of year is probably our busiest. Keeping pitches up to a certain standard is difficult as at this time of year, you start to get foreign grasses in.

“To the untrained eye, the pitches might look alright and the covering is good. But to us, we can see where all the problems are.

“If they are left untreated for a long time, then pitches would not be in a brilliant state for next season.

“We have just got to do what we can with what we have got with the situation being as it is.”

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Weymouth GC greenkeeper retires

Weymouth GC greenkeeper retires: Weymouth Golf Club will wish a fond farewell to their head greenkeeper this month, as he retires after 42 years working to keep the course in tip top shape.

Rob Bayliss, 64, was appointed head greenkeeper at the club in May 1978 and many at the club will know him from his monthly newsletters.

Weymouth GC greenkeeper retires

Weymouth GC greenkeeper retires

He will leave his role to retire at the end of this month, but looks back on his time there with fond memories: “Every golfer knows that golf courses have a magic about them, each one is unique in its own way and offers challenges both to golfer and to the greenkeepers that maintain them.

“Apart from the obvious beauty of a golf course as part of the wider landscape they offer safe haven for many forms of wildlife to thrive undisturbed in what is often an urban setting. So choosing a career where you spend your working life in such a wonderful surroundings is perhaps the envy of many who like to spend their leisure time out on the course.

“I even met my wife Tina at the club when she was working in the office. She enjoys volunteering to work on the course and every weekend that I have been on duty, without missing a day she comes along to help with setting up the course for play. Such is the magic of the course she will miss working here just as much as I will.”

Mr Bayliss has faced many challenges during his long career, most notably the building of the link road for the Granby estate, which involved a complete redesign of six holes across the course and construction of new tees and greens.

More recently, he has overseen the course during the coronavirus pandemic and has managed to keep it in perfect condition while golfers were banned from the site.

Colin Huckle, president of Weymouth Golf Club, said: “Rob is a highly skilled team leader and a longstanding and loyal employee working at Weymouth Golf Club, providing members and visitors with a first class facility.

“During his career he has been responsible for implementing a number of major improvements to the course.

“All of us at Weymouth Golf Club wish Rob a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

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Tributes to devoted groundsman

Tributes to devoted groundsman: Tributes have been paid to a groundsman who devoted his life to the football and cricket clubs he lovingly served.

John Marston, who was groundsman at Mundford Football Club and Mundford Cricket Club, died on May 13 at the age of 76.

Tributes to devoted groundsman

Tributes to devoted groundsman

Employed throughout his working life by the Forestry Commission, Mr Marston began playing for both teams during the 1960s.

As a cricketer he boasted sublime batting technique and a vicious turning leg break, while in footballing terms he enjoyed a fruitful playing career and later became a much-admired referee.

But Mr Marston will be best remembered for his dedication to the running of the clubs and their facilities, serving as an award-winning groundsman for several decades.

Trevor Mouncer, chairman of Mundford FC, knew Mr Marston for almost 50 years and the pair were firm friends.

“John was never married so his family was basically the football and cricket clubs – he devoted his life to them,” said Mr Mouncer.

“Myself, John, and Doug Rolph have been involved with the football club for many years and we’ve been called ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. We’d meet two or three times a week, work on the pitch, have a cup of tea and talk about absolutely nothing.

“We always had so much fun and two of us would always be laughing our heads off at the other. From that point of view John will be greatly missed.”

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Greenkeeper threatened by golfer

Greenkeeper threatened by golfer: The manager of one of the top golf clubs in Edinburgh has expressed shock at a greenkeeper being “threatened” by a golfer.

The incident happened on Thursday at Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club in the heart of the city.

Greenkeeper threatened by golfer

Greenkeeper threatened by golfer

Like all courses in Scotland, it remains closed due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

But, in common with a number of venues, it has seen frustrated golfers starting to turn up, mainly to practise, without permission.

“We have been advised this morning of an incident which has just occurred at the course,” Merchants club manager Melanie Dobie said in an email to members.

“A member of our green staff, while carrying out his duties, was threatened by a golfer.

“This individual, who claimed to be a member, was practising on the putting green at the first tee and our green staff told him the course and all practice facilities were closed and he should refrain from playing. Our staff member was then verbally abused and physically threatened by a club. This behaviour is totally unacceptable and no one should have to experience this when carrying out their duties.”

The incident came a few hours after the police were called to nearby Mortonhall Golf Club following a report of people playing there.Mortonhall club manager Alan Mackay said: “I have been in touch with police on a regular basis about the amount of ‘traffic’ on the golf course at times, which has been ridiculous.

“The police were called again last night as a member who was out walking took a picture of people golfing.

“By time they arrived, they had gone and were then called out to another incident.”

Many golf courses around the country are being used at the moment by non-golfers for daily exercise.

Mackay added: “80 per cent of people are very courteous in where they walk on the course.

“But there are some who have no disregard in how much hard work the green staff have put in to making the course look as good as it does.”

People have also been spotted practising in bunkers at the Braids, one of the Edinburgh Leisure courses.

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Greenkeeper banished beard for NHS

Greenkeeper banished beard for NHS: Reay Golf Club greenkeeper James Macadie wanted to do something special to raise money for the NHS – so decided to take part in his very own “Covhead Challenge” by having his beloved beard shaved off.

James (69) had been sporting his beard since the early 1970s and only once before shaved it all for charity, in 1984.

Greenkeeper banished beard for NHS

Greenkeeper banished beard for NHS

It was decided that the banishment of the beard would take place on Thursday, May 7, just before the weekly Clap for Our Carers, and a JustGiving page was opened.

His wife Irene (69) did the shaving of both head and beard in the front garden at their home in Reay, while other family members – daughter Yvonne Morris, son-in-law Cammy Morris and two granddaughters, Ashleigh and Natasha – did their best to raise awareness of the event.

They said: “NHS staff and volunteers are doing amazing work right now in caring for Covid-19 patients. Together, we wanted to show our respect and gratitude as they work tirelessly in the face of the virus and make sure we look after them, to ensure they can keep doing their vital work.

“For many, James and his bearded face was a familiar sight to see around Reay and helped keep him warm in the winter months while out on the golf course. So you can imagine the shock when it was all gone!”

Their efforts have resulted in £2420 being raised for the NHS. James and the family say they are keen to thank all who have supported the challenge and made donations.

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Elgin pitch in to thank NHS

Elgin pitch in to thank NHS: Elgin City’s Borough Briggs pitch displayed a special message to the heroes of the NHS thanking them for their efforts during the Covid-19 crisis.

Club director and groundsman Cecil Jack came up with a unique way for City to express their gratitude by marking a huge love heart and the words “Thank you NHS” in the centre of the park.

Elgin pitch in thank NHS

Elgin pitch in thank NHS

The club then recruited local firm Rotorworx Aerial Media and Andy Innes Aerial Photography to take drone pictures of the markings, which then went down a storm on City’s Facebook page.

Jack teamed up with fellow ground helper and former director Jim Farquhar to do the design.

“I was thinking what we could do on the pitch so I phoned Jim and asked him how good he thought he was with the wheelbarrow and the pitch lining,” he said.

“Jim said his grandson had been doing something at the school with a heart so we concocted a plan and then we decided what to do from there.

“It was quite a fun thing to do.”

Club secretary Keiran Carty organised the drone photography to ensure the finished product could get the best exposure from high above the stadium.

“The NHS have been absolutely fantastic with any experiences I have had and I think everyone agrees with that,” Jack added.

“They do a great job and you find that out in times like these so we just wanted to do a small gesture to show our thanks.

“It would have needed a lot more writing to include the other essential workers but their work was very much in our thoughts as well when we did this.”

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Groundsman keeping Keepmoat pitch ready

Groundsman keeping Keepmoat pitch ready: The pitch at the Keepmoat Stadium would be ready for Doncaster Rovers with just a couple of days notice – but that has been no mean feat during lockdown.

Operating in an environment of uncertainty with football and rugby league halted due to the Covid-19 outbreak, head groundsman Andy Thompson and his depleted team have done all they can to ensure the pitches at their disposal are primed for use.

Groundsman keeping Keepmoat pitch ready

Groundsman keeping Keepmoat pitch ready

“It’s sound,” Thompson told the Free Press. “It’s in good condition.

“All the areas that were devoid of grass a bit over the winter months have filled in.

“We’ve been able to continue to maintain the standards that we’ve got by cutting daily, applying chemicals and fertiliser, raking and grooming when we need to.

“And that’s been at the training ground and the ground as well.

“To be honest it’s ready now. If someone said we were playing on Monday morning we’d be ready.

“We’ve kept it in the best standard that we can going forward because like everyone else, we don’t know what is going to happen next.”

It is expected that the remainder of the League One campaign will be cancelled in the coming days, with attention then turning to a possible start date for the 2020/21 season.

For much of the nine weeks since the last matches were played, there was a strong intention that competitive action would be resumed in the summer.

Such uncertainty calls for the most sensible option to be pursued as plans are prepared.

That has been no different for ground staff – though it has come with its challenges.

“It’s been difficult for materials because a lot of the suppliers that we’ve got and machine parts, they’ve furloughed all their staff,” said Thompson, who first started working for the club in 1998.

“We’re just trying to find a happy medium and balance the best I can, spotting any issues before they become big issues.

“If there’s any disease in the pitch I’d rather not spray it because I can’t get hold of any chemicals and then we just have to manage it the best we can.

“It’s good because proactively we’ve got to look at managing finances the best we can, especially when we’ve got no money coming through.

“It’s fine, it’s a good part of the job and it’s good practice going forwards any way.”

Club Doncaster took the decision to place the majority of staff on furlough to help offset the lack of income during the shutdown of sport.

With year round work required to maintain playing surfaces, Thompson’s department was less affected than others but he is short of a few bodies.

And working within social distancing restrictions has proven difficult also.

“Out of the five staff that we’ve got we’ve only got three working across the two sites, which has been fine in the main,” he said.

“Cutting grass can be a long, laborious job sometimes so having a cup of tea with someone and a bit of a chat, winding each other up is good. You miss that sort of interaction sometimes.

“It’s been strange at the ground. There’s two of us and we’ve had breaks at different times. One person works in one half of the pitch, the other in the other.

“It’s been hard with the machines, cleaning them down after every use, just to try to limit any issues there might be working with someone.

“It’s hard to social distance when you’re working, even though we’ve got 8,000 square metres out there.

“We’ve been trying to do that the best we can.”

Typically, at this time of year, Thompson and his team would be putting final preparations in place for the renovation of the pitch at the Keepmoat.

Each year, in a period where home fixtures for Doncaster RLFC are cleared, a process taking several weeks begins where the playing surface is cleared and reseeded in time for the start of the next football season.

As things stand, and with the decision to end the season early likely, the usual plans look set to be largely unaffected.

“We’d planned it around the fixtures and the concert [The Killers were due to play the Keepmoat on May 25],” Thompson said.

“It was all booked in and ready to go for the early part of June. I’m still pushing to get it done.

“A lot of clubs, higher up than us, have taken the plunge to do renovations early, knowing that there would be no games in the stadium for five or six weeks. They saw it as an opportunity.

“We looked at it as if we did that and the players did come back, we could end up having to do two renovations. That would be counterproductive, especially financially.

“From our point of view, we’ve got to plan normally that the season was going to end in June.

“A lot of groundsmen are starting to panic because they would have done their renovation work in early May when the season finished. But because of our usage, we don’t usually do our renovation until June any way.

“For us it’s about waiting for a decision from the EFL saying we’re going to do this and then getting the nod from the powers that be to do the renovation.”

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