Like most, I followed in the footsteps of my father, I quit college aged 17 and headed for the office. My father was the director of a successful recruitment agency. I too seemed to excel, after completing an apprenticeship my salary was raised to £18,000, I was also making several thousand more a month in commission. My efforts saw me transferred to an office in the City of London. Some would say successful,however for me, success isn’t measured in numbers, rather happiness. I spent a total of 16 months in recruitment. The 9-5 office environment lacked purpose and meaning.
I’m an outdoors lad, always have been, I also love my sport. I tried my hand at almost everything as a youngster, football, cricket, basketball, sailing, you name it. A jack of all trades, master of none, it is little wonder therefore that when the time came to finally quit the ‘rat race’ I combined my love for the two (the outdoors and sport) and turned to the turf maintenance industry. With that, I turned my back on a healthy income, an apprenticeship and the advice of my peers.
To get my foot in the door, I took a short contract at Sunbury Golf Course, a 27-hole golfing complex in Surrey. This marked the beginning of my career in the industry. I cut my teeth on a fleet of Toros, working the tees, fairways and greens. It was a blistering hot summer. Fresh air, early starts and early finishes, I worked hard and I could see the results and it gave me a great sense of fulfilment.
This however was short lived, I soon found myself out of work again and pressure was growing from ex colleagues and friends to “get a real job”. I had many offers from recruitment agencies to return but eventually snubbed them (and salaries of £20,000) to begin a Level 2 Sports Turf Maintenance Apprenticeship at St James, Senior Boys School in Ashford Middlesex (accepting a much-reduced salary of £12,000). This was a big risk, however, my love for the industry had begun and I was keen to do things properly.
Here I met Head Groundsman Steve Fidler, a great mentor and servant to the industry. He’s the Chairman of Hampton Hill Cricket Club and has decades of experience. The school is a large private estate, with interchangeable football, rugby and cricket pitches, it has additional tennis courts and an artificial hockey pitch.
Here I learnt the real bread and butter of turf maintenance, perennial rye grasses, bent and fescues, as well as soil science and pitch specifications. We worked around the clock on behalf of the PE department and students. Together we produced top quality playing surfaces. It was an ideal place to learn the trade and my risk was starting to pay off. Good honest work, a keen interest in sport and tangible results. I was happier, healthier and more engaged with my work. The money was secondary, I was enjoying myself and that was all that mattered.
Disappointingly I left before finishing my level 2 in February 2018. I left the UK and spent the next 6 months travelling across North, Central and South America. This is something I dreamed of as a kid; l will save this for another story!
Upon my return I was motivated and determined to finish my qualification. I joined Ashford Manor Golf Club, an 18-hole, 6400-yard, private members club founded in 1898. I’ve always been attracted by the challenge of maintaining a golf course. It offers perhaps the broadest most complete test in turf maintenance. I spent the following year working hard to deliver on the club’s high standards; verti draining, top dressing, over seeding,more responsibility and more duties. Reaffirming my decision to join the industry. The Institute of Groundsmanship (finally) signed off on my level 2 in September. Shortly after, due to complications with management, I left Ashford Manor and in January used this opportunity and the money I’d saved to spend the following months travelling across India.
I look forward to returning soon, finally settling down and focusing on my career.
The UK is the birthplace of so many of the world’s great sports. Wembley the home of football, Twickenham the home of rugby, Lords the home of cricket, St. Andrews the home of golf and Wimbledon the home of tennis. The list goes on,it is quite a remarkable achievement and with this comes a rich and unrivalled tradition of groundsmanship and turf maintenance. The unsung heroes of the sporting world. As a youngster, I endeavour to continue the long and proud tradition we have in the UK of ground and turf maintenance.
“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life again”. To anybody like me, who currently feels disengaged with their work life [and or] is struggling with a career choice, if you love sport and want to earn an honest and potentially lucrative living, choose ground and turf maintenance.