Finalists of the 2022 Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards revealed

20 July 2022 Announcement

Toro, Reesink Turfcare and BIGGA have revealed the finalists of their prestigious annual awards, which seek to uncover the UK’s leading student greenkeepers.

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Rhian Barton and Matthew Milligan won the 2021 edition of the awards


Each year the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards enable BIGGA, the UK’s only membership association for golf greenkeepers, to work alongside turf maintenance equipment manufacturer Toro and distributor Reesink Turfcare to celebrate the next generation of talented and dedicated greenkeepers.

BIGGA Learning and Development Executive Deb Burnett said: “Each year the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards gain a little more prestige, as previous finalists go on to achieve wonderful things in their careers. I’m delighted that more student greenkeepers than ever before participated in the nomination process and all should be proud of how they performed during the regional interview stage.

“The 12 finalists are very worthy of their spot and I can’t wait to watch them overcome the challenges we set for them at glorious Goodwood this autumn. My thanks go to Toro and Reesink Turfcare for their continued support of this wonderful initiative.”

A record 54 nominees from across the United Kingdom were put forward by educators, course managers and head greenkeepers and other mentors. From those candidates, a final 12 have been chosen to contest the grand finals this September.

For the first time, the finals of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year will take place at Goodwood, the historic sporting venue located in West Sussex. The awards event will take place a week before the estate hosts Goodwood Revival, the famous weekend of classic racing. Goodwood is also home to the Downs Course, described by Justin Rose as a “truly inspirational” place to play golf.

September’s event will be the 33rd staging of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards and just the sixth time the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award, open to greenkeepers aged 21 or under, will take place. To be eligible to take part, candidates must be registered on a qualifying greenkeeping qualification and must be nominated by their course manager or college tutor.

Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year

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Andrew Bate

Greenkeeper, Hesketh Golf Club

Greenkeeping has changed my life and I am thankful for that. At the age of 40 I wanted a change and it was the best decision I ever made. After 15 years working as a photographer and travelling the world, my head wasn't in a great place as I was spending weeks away from my son and loved ones, so it was time to do something about it!

Having played golf at Hesketh since the age of 14, I asked the course manager if he would take a chance on me. My passion and attention to detail coupled with my love for working outdoors made greenkeeping the perfect industry for me to switch to. I can honestly say that I have never been happier and the job is fantastic.

Studying through Myerscough has been great. I have learnt so much and want to learn a lot more. My aspiration is to become a course manager, but with age not on my side I will have to push hard to make this happen.

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Tom Bromfield

Greenkeeper, Trentham Golf Club

Having completed my Level 2 in Golf Greenkeeping and now well into my Level 3 Advanced Golf Greenkeeping, I continue to improve upon my own professional development.

I was grateful that my college tutor put me forward for the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper Award in 2019. I worked hard to get through the stages and eventually won the award. As part of my prize, I had the opportunity to participate in work experience at Golf de Vidauban in France. This was a huge life experience for me, travelling and working away from home.

I was also grateful to be asked to work at the JCB Golf and Country Club in 2020 as part of the team for the Rose Series and I was selected for the BIGGA Volunteer Support Team for The Open at Royal St George's in 2021.

Recently, Trentham has taken on two apprentices who I have had the opportunity to mentor. This has been valuable in progressing my skills as I aspire to take on a management role in the next five to 10 years.

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James Gaskell

Deputy Course Manager, Ripon City Golf Club

I have been involved in greenkeeping for just over five years on a full time basis. While at university, I worked the summers at Bedale Golf Club and this turned into a passion.

Once I finished university I applied for a greenkeeping role at Ripon City, making up a small team of four. I have gained qualifications including my Level 2 and my PA1 and PA2 spraying. These have helped me take on the deputy course manager role as colleagues have left or retired.

I volunteered at the Brabazon qualifier at Alwoodley, where I worked all four days after work to help the staff out with preparations. I would like to volunteer to help out again, especially at an Open venue.

My aspiration is to become a head greenkeeper when I feel ready and when a suitable opportunity arises. I play golf to a 1.2 handicap so I bring experience of competition play to compliment my greenkeeping knowledge.

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Abigail Laker

Greenkeeper, Frilford Heath Golf Club

In 2012 I was offered a four-year full golf scholarship with Arkansas State University, where I played for the women’s golf team and made the Sunbelt Conference All-American Team. My college motto still inspires me each day: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable”.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Creative Media Journalism and turned professional in 2018, playing on the LET Access Series for two years, traveling Europe and playing in as many events as possible.

When COVID hit I got a role at Frilford Heath in the Golf Operations Department. I then joined the greenkeeping team and I have never looked back - I love it! A highlight was helping renovate all of the bunkers on the Red Course. It’s great to work behind the scenes and to learn about the challenges that come with keeping the course presented at its best. I enjoy taking on new challenges, meeting people and having fun!

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Andrew Ritchie

Greenkeeper, St Andrews Links

In 2015 I worked at Teen Ranch Scotland on grounds maintenance, which led me to pursue a career in greenkeeping. I gained employment at Cawder as an apprentice greenkeeper and enrolled in the SVQ Level 2 Sports Turf Maintenance at GOSTA Training College.

A year into my career, I secured employment at St Andrew Links as an assistant greenkeeper on the New and Jubilee Courses. These are championship courses dating back to the late 1800’s with original features designed by Tom Morris. Securing a full-time position at the Home of Golf pushed me to work to higher standards to exceed the expectations of our clientele and in 2022 I was awarded GOSTA Student of the Year.

I volunteered to assist with the winter construction projects in the run up to The Open and this led to me being selected to join the Old Course team for the month prior and week of The Open.

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John Thornton

Greenkeeper, Hellidon Lakes Hotel & Country Club

I have grasped every opportunity to gain knowledge with both hands and my biggest achievement so far is being promoted to first assistant at Hellidon Lakes, which is a 27-hole woodland course, with specific responsibility of the 9-hole course.

I am highly motivated by the Level 2 apprenticeship course and with my continuing professional development in mind, I approached the St Andrews Links team and was given the opportunity spend a day with each of the four course managers there, using the time to ask as many questions as possible. I gained a good understanding of what it takes to run premier-standard golf courses. It was particularly valuable gaining an insight into preparing for The Open with Gordon McKie on the Old Course. I have since implemented some of the practices I learned at St Andrews at my own course, with the support of my course manager.


Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year

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Jake Beech

Greenkeeper, Newcastle-under-Lyme Golf Club

I work at a lovely 18-hole parkland course, where the course manager, Ian Beech, is my father. When the opportunity arrived to work at the golf club, I left another job and started at Newcastle in July 2019.

Since then, I have experienced a drought followed by one of the wettest winters on record. I was progressing well in my role, including attending BTME 2020, where I took part in multiple seminars. However, my progress was halted by COVID until the winter of 2020, when the team was brought back to do essential maintenance. I put myself forward for training to be a first aider and I have various certificates in health and safety.

The course manager recruited me to be a part of the club's social media team and my role is to provide photos of the course that exhibit our hard work. I hope to one day become a course manager just like my father.

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Alfie Brookes

Greenkeeper, Gathurst Golf Club

I started off working for a sports turf company that looked after the turf surfaces in football, tennis and bowling greens. When the sports turf company shut down, I came to work at Gathurst with help from my college tutor.

A personal success was raising funds for a local charity that looks after a natural green space in Skelmersdale.

I am currently undertaking training for my PA1 and in the next five years I hope to achieve a distinction on my Level 2 Golf Greenkeeping apprenticeship. After this is completed, I want to complete the Level 3 Advanced Golf Greenkeeper apprenticeship.

In the future I hope to be an agronomist and to complete this I need to work towards the foundation degree in sports turf management.

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Luke Charnley

Greenkeeper, Royal Liverpool Golf Club

I started working in greenkeeping about 16 months ago at Shaw Hill Golf and Country Club. Since starting in the industry I always wanted to progress to a prestigious course to better my career and widen my knowledge and recently I was lucky enough to start a new job at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which will host The Open in 2023.

I have learnt a great amount since making the step up to a championship course as the standard of the work is much higher. In the future I intend to volunteer to ensure I am fully prepared for The Open, which will also help to progress my career further. I still have aspirations to develop in this industry and take the required steps to eventually become a course manager at a prestigious course myself one day.

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Peter Pattenden

Greenkeeper, Carden Park Golf Club

I have been a full time greenkeeper for 2 and a half years and I have just started my Level 3.

I recently passed my PA1, PA2 and PA6 spraying licenses and I completed my chainsaw license two years ago.

I volunteered at JCB Golf and Country Club for the Rose Series Ladies Tour, while I have also played rugby for North Wales and Scottish Exiles.

One day I would like to be a course manager at an elite course and I have an unmatched potential and drive to reach that goal.

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James Stratford

Greenkeeper, Broome Manor Golf Club

I am working towards my Level 2 Greenkeeping qualification at Sparsholt College and I am really enjoying the experience, particularly soil science and plant biology, as it enables me to put the knowledge I gain at college into practice.

I began working at Broome Manor in the pro shop, but when I offered to help the greenkeepers I was instantly hooked. I soon asked for more hours on the greenkeeping side and I was offered a full-time role. Since taking on the role I have fallen in love with working outside and the variety of jobs greenkeeping offers. 

Through my experiences at work and college I have gained confidence in myself, both at work and in everyday life. I am also looking forward to working as a match day groundsman at Swindon Town next season.

I hope to have a long career in the industry and would love to venture into the architectural side, helping build or improve golf courses in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

Freddie Williams
Freddie Williams

Greenkeeper, Dudsbury Golf Club

I began my apprenticeship at Dudsbury in February 2022 after many years of cutting the outfield at my local cricket and golf club, where I had gained a passion for the sports turf industry.

I work at a course called Dudsbury, an 18-hole parkland course five miles inland from Bournemouth, which is predominantly bentgrass greens with a small amount off Poa annua. I was hooked to the industry by the ongoing goal of producing the best playing surfaces possible for golfers, while experiencing all four seasons throughout the year and spending time outside in nature.

After coming back from the Dutch Open, where I was a volunteer greenkeeper, my aspirations have become bigger than ever. Experiencing a different course in a different climate and country, I would now like to travel and learn about different countries' native plants and course types.

Hopefully one day I will use all this experience and knowledge to be head greenkeeper of my own course!


The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year winner will receive: enrolment in the 10-week University of Massachusetts Winter Turf School; a two-week expenses-paid placement at Adare Manor, venue of The 2027 Ryder Cup; an all expenses paid trip to the GCSAA Conference and Show in Florida; and a visit to Toro Corporate HQ, R&D Centre and Equipment Operations in Wisconsin.

The Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year winner will receive: a two-week work placement at Vidauban Golf Club in France; a five-night trip to Continue to Learn at BTME including four days of education; and a gift voucher for Toro Training.

The runners-up and endorsers of the winners will also receive various prizes.


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Karl Hansell
BIGGA | Head of Marketing and Communications

Karl has been head of communications for BIGGA since March 2016. His duties include editing the monthly Greenkeeper International magazine, in addition to other communications activities for the association.


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