Thursday, February 2, 2017

Throwback Thursday!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, February 2nd (Groundhog Day) and it's hard to believe the first month of 2017 is now in the books.  Where does the time go these days! When last we met here I was trying to prepare everyone for the approaching winter storm, and the course did in fact close for five consecutive days due to snow and ice cover.  Shortly after the winter storm I traveled to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to speak at the Tennessee Turfgrass Association Conference, and then a few days after returning Mrs. Greenkeeper and I traveled across the pond to experience BTME.  You may recall back in November I talked about "Conference Season" and my busy January.

Since returning from Harrogate, England the outpouring of support has been humbling to say the least.  I admit I wasn't originally planning to blog about the trip, but many members at last week's Annual Meeting asked me to share, and once President Hilaire gave his address which included recognizing my achievement and the following standing ovation, how could I not.  So let's travel back in time, actually it's just two weeks to when I was awarded the Master Greenkeeper Certificate by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
Our journey began on Saturday, January 14th.  We flew from Charlotte to Philadelphia late that afternoon then departed Philadelphia and flew overnight to Manchester, England.  We arrived just before 8:30 am on Sunday morning, January 15th and I had prearranged car travel from Manchester to Harrogate where we would be staying. Our accommodations for the week was The Majestic Hotel.
The Majestic!
The hotel was built at the turn of the century opening in 1900!  The interior matched the exterior with museum quality fixtures and furnishings.  We spent the better part of Sunday trying to acclimate to our new surroundings and the five-hour time difference.  With BTME not officially getting underway till Tuesday that left us Monday to experience and explore more of the historic town.
Cottage Homes Overlooking The Stray
War Memorial

Historic Pub


Trying to "Blend In"

Leave it to me to be nerdy and seek out some turf while exploring the town.  Harrogate was originally a "Spa Town" containing bath houses and natural springs known for their healing properties.  In the latter part of the 20th century the city reinvented itself as a major convention center with the Harrogate International Centre.  Surrounded by traditional shops and restaurants, the HIC truly is a fabulous venue for meetings and exhibitions.  As our day drew to a close I was excited to experience the largest professional turf management conference outside of the U.S.
Harrogate International Centre

The Royal Hall

The Royal Hall was where I gathered early Tuesday morning to hear golf course superintendent Neil Cleverly from the Olympic Course give a no holds barred account of all that went into building, growing-in, and presenting the Olympic Course for the 2016 Olympic Games.  Neil's story was truly a riveting adventure and inspiring to think of all the obstacles he and his team had to overcome.    

The interior of the Royal Hall is simply breathtaking and it is impossible to adequately describe its beauty.  All I can say is I was excited knowing I would be on that very stage later that same evening. I attended a seminar after lunch with good friend Rodney Hine from Boston Golf Club.  Rodney and I attended the 2015 Syngenta Business Institute together and it was awesome to see him and a few other friends across the pond attending BTME courtesy of TurfNet.

Our Master of Ceremony for the evening was the witty and charming Naga Munchetty, journalist and golf lover from the BBC.  Her sense of humor and quick delivery kept everyone entertained throughout the evening.  She was first class all the way and accommodated numerous photo requests following the proceedings, even ours. David Callanan, MG, CGCS and I were just relieved she didn't ask us any questions on stage!
BIGGA Chairman Les Howkins, MG Presenting Award
MG No. 39 & MG No. 69

Mrs. Greenkeeper & Naga Munchetty 

David Callanan, MG, CGCS (MG No. 71)
A few other highlights of our trip included reconnecting with former employee, James Dennet and finally meeting in person a few Turf Twitter connections in Dr. John Dempsey and Lickey Hills GC Greenkeeper Dave Collins.
There were many other great memories and I met so many wonderful people, but I would be remiss if I didn't recognize one very special couple.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sami Strutt, Head of Member Development for BIGGA and her husband Lee (MG No. 31).  Lee and I were in the same GCSAA CGCS graduating class three years ago and the two of them along with Mrs. Greenkeeper pushed me to see this process through.  We celebrated the occassion with a traditional English dinner at the beautiful William and Victoria restaurant in the heart of Harrogate.
Overall the entire trip was a very humbling and emotional experience.  The award will forever serve as a constant reminder to never be complacent and strive for more.  I am so glad we decided to make the effort to journey over and experience BTME in person, and I promised everyone we will return some day.  It's good to be home, however I have one more business trip before the growing season returns.  I am headed to Orlando, Florida next week for this year's Golf Industry Show.  For those of you following on Twitter I will be sure to share some of the experience with you, and when I get back I look forward to seeing you out on the course.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG