'FTMI was a truly wonderful experience'
Andrew Wilson is deputy head greenkeeper at Whitecraigs Golf Club in Glasgow. He was also a graduate of the FTMI Class of 2019 and gave his reflections on the incredible learning opportunity for BIGGA members.
I’d been told that the Future Turf Managers Initiative was an excellent course for greenkeepers who wanted to develop themselves professionally. Completing the three days would give candidates training, skills and contacts to help make the transition to course manager in the future.
Having applied unsuccessfully for FTMI 2018, I tried again and was one of the lucky 20 chosen for FTMI 2019. It turned out to be by far the best experience I have had in greenkeeping to date.
Preparations for the course, which was held at Jacobsen's headquarters in Ipswich on 5 to 7 March, started well before Christmas. A WhatsApp group was set up and we began planning in earnest.
Myself and 3 of the other Scottish boys arrived by flight and then taxi. As we arrived at the Jacobsen manufacturing facility, we realised that we were going to be part of something special. The training room was excellent and we all had a workstation with our FTMI waterproof jacket and other goodies waiting for us.
We had a fascinating tour of the factory and when you see raw materials arriving at one end of the building and follow the process through to completed machine, it gives a far better understanding of the costs and complexities of modern machinery.
After our factory tour the hardwork started as we knuckled down to three full days of education, training and mentoring. The class was split into three groups, with each having a distinguished course manager as a mentor. The mentors for FTMI 2019 were Euan Grant (course manager at JCB), Andrew Laing (course manager at Gaudet Luce) and Steve Lloyd (course manager at The Worcestershire). Each group has now set up its own WhatsApp group so we can continue to communicate with each other and seek advice from our mentors as our careers develop.
The training provided was exceptional and the content essential for aspiring course managers. Our first major challenge was to give a short 90-second presentation to the FTMI group before dinner at the hotel that was to be our base during the course. The presentation was a little daunting but being able to prepare a short speech and deliver it confidently, is important. Since completing the course I have been required to speak at several committee meetings and while I was still apprehensive, I wasn’t like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights.
During FTMI the class made two presentations and the mentors all remarked on how much better and more confident our delivery was at the end of the course, compared to the first day.
We also studied the whole interview process in detail. Michael Astrop (tutor for the Institute of Leadership and Management) led sessions looking at how a good CV should be prepared and how to approach an interview to convey the correct image. Simple things like a firm handshake, maintaining eye contact and not fidgeting are vital in a job interview but are also important when dealing with committees or club members. After all, first impressions count.
Then it was on to the mock interviews. The mentors had received our CV’s prior to the course and were able to offer constructive feedback before they chaired our interview panel. All the other members of our group were able to ask questions and it was quite intense. After the interviews were finished, the mentors took us aside and gave feedback on our performance, along with tips and suggestions for future interviews.
Phil Helmn MG (General Manager of Sportsturf and Grounds, Goodwood Estate) spoke to us after dinner on the second evening. He was very open and honest, talking about how he went about becoming a better team manager. Solid foundations are essential to build a strong team that will work well together and enhance the business. This is true of all work places and the insights Phil was able to offer were captivating.
We were fortunate to have Lee Strutt MG (Course Manager, RAC Club) to take a session looking at how to build a budget. With the title of course manager come many responsibilities, including managing a budget. We went through budgets in detail, making use of Microsoft Excel and Lee’s expertise to create our own template, which we were able to take away with us. This will be extremely useful if we become Course Managers in the future. The session also taught me many shortcuts and tricks that I can use when working with Excel. I’ve been making compiling spreadsheets much more onerous than they need be.
The final session was on coaching and motivating teams led by Eddie Bullock (Golf Management Consultant). Eddie has a wealth of experience, including being managing director at Woburn Golf Club for nine years. He delivered the session brilliantly and used a number of role play scenarios to get his message through to us. It was such an interesting topic and we all learned a great deal on how to get the best from ourselves and those we may one day manage.
Training sessions are a big part of FTMI but networking is equally important. Throughout the three days, all those involved mixed really well. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner together and were continually seated with different people. At the hotel we shared a twin room and had time to socialise before, during and after dinner. I hope to stay in touch with the friends and contacts I have made. We have all been on the same journey and I’m certain we will all help each other out whenever we can in the future.
I have taken a great deal away from my three days in Ipswich. Since returning to Whitecraigs, I have tried to put into practice many of the things we learned. I have overhauled my CV, which was pretty dull and boring beforehand and I hope that I am now better prepared for a future interview panel.
My colleagues may disagree (I hope not) but I feel that I have returned to work with more enthusiasm and a new sense of purpose. I am enjoying working with my course manager and getting involved with all aspects of the job. I think I am now more assured when speaking with golfers and committee members. I have the tools to handle difficult situations and the confidence to put them into practice.
FTMI was a truly wonderful experience and I can’t possibly do it justice in this article, in fact I’m barely scratching the surface of it. The three days were intense and challenging. They pushed me out of my comfort zone but were ultimately very rewarding.
If anyone is considering applying for future FTMI’s, I would urge you to do it. You won’t regret it and it may be the making of you.