Master Greenkeeper 84: Alan FitzGerald
In June 2021, Alan FitzGerald of LedgeRock Golf Club in Pennsylvania became the 84th BIGGA member to achieve the Master Greenkeeper certification.
I cannot remember the last time that I was as excited as I was when I got word that I had become Master Greenkeeper #84! It is up there with the top moments of my life, like getting married!
I have been around golf all of my life, but I had not considered a career in greenkeeping until I got a summer job at Mount Juliet right before its opening in 1991. That summer I still remember seeing the article in Greenkeeper International about the first Master Greenkeeper and thinking that could be me one day! As my career progressed, I went to Penn State to study turfgrass management, interned at Loch Lomond and upon graduation from PSU became an assistant superintendent at Pine Valley in NJ, before taking on the grow-in at LedgeRock at 28 years old!
Somewhere along the way I let my BIGGA membership lapse and with it, my thoughts of becoming a Master Greenkeeper. Fast forward to 2018 when I came with the Turfnet group to BTME for the first time. Not only was I a BIGGA member again, but it also renewed my interest in becoming a Master Greenkeeper – so I set it as my new goal. After some scrambling to get all of my old certificates, continuing education and experiences together, I passed Stage 1 and was on my way!
When I first decided I wanted to become a golf course superintendent, Aidan O’Hara at Mount Juliet told me to gain my basic greenkeeping education in Ireland and try and go to the States. After a few years of experience and finishing my greenkeeping cert at the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin, I headed for Penn State. I still remember arriving there and realising I was in a slightly different world! I had to walk across campus from the bus station to my dorm as I could not find a cab and still remember looking a bit daft, dragging my old school suitcase with my belt! I’ve definitely come a long way!
The advisors at Penn State wanted me to intern under a Penn State grad but also were a little worried about me spending a whole year away from family in the US so I ended up going to Loch Lomond to work under Ken Siems and David Cole. I can finally say I am joining them in the MG club! Upon graduation I was lucky to get an assistant in training position at Pine Valley and within six months I was an assistant, with the primary responsibility of managing the Short Course there amongst my other duties. I met my wife at Penn State so wanted to stay in the US so Pine Valley worked with me on my visas; while that was being processed, I went on the Ohio Program with Mike O Keeffe, which ensured I could stay until the permanent visa came along.
A few years later, the founders at LedgeRock talked to Pine Valley about hiring an assistant as their superintendent. Once I saw the property, I immediately saw its potential and have been there ever since!
I’ve always strived to become a better superintendent and find ways to better myself. Becoming a Master Greenkeeper appealed to me for two main reasons. Firstly, the standards to become one are extremely high, which shows in how few have gained the distinction over the last 30 years and secondly, in the fact that it is heavily weighted on your actual experience and knowledge – there is no way to fluff your way to achieving it. Becoming a Master Greenkeeper is literally the accumulation of everything that I have done over my career, which is why I am extremely excited and honored to be a member of this select club.
Congratulations Alan on becoming Master Greenkeeper number 84! More information about the Master Greenkeeper Certificate is available here.