Q&A with… Alejandro Reyes Golf Courses and Estate Manager, Le Golf National- venue of the 2018 Ryder Cup.
What is the biggest compliment you have had about the venue? I don’t know if it is the biggest compliment, but I remember one during the 2014 French Open. Sky Sports were talking about long putting on the first green, and the commentator said, “these greens are as pure as they can be.” I saw this and took a video of it with my mobile phone, which I still have to this day. I was very proud of that comment!
What will be the most rewarding thing for you regarding hosting the Ryder Cup? I’m looking forward to Sunday afternoon of the Ryder Cup, once the last putt has been made. Everyone will be happy with the set-up and hopefully we will have a good week. The main thing is that our staff, the organisation and the players are all happy and proud of the job that we have done- that will be the most rewarding thing.
How do you cope with the pressures of hosting such a prestigious event? At this point in time, I don’t have too much pressure. As I always say, I sleep very well; I don’t get under pressure easily. Any pressure I do have is usually not to do with the tournament, so I just try to enjoy every moment here with the team.
What helped you make the decision to pick Jacobsen over the other big names? Service, tournament support and the security that we already had with Jacobsen. This course was Jacobsen since 2011, and when we were doing the bidding process for the Ryder Cup in 2015, security and trust were the biggest factors. We receive fantastic tournament support from Jacobsen every year for the French Open, and that’s what we wanted for the Ryder Cup. We were just delighted with the quality of the mowers, and we trust in them to produce top quality surfaces. For us, it was an easy choice.
What is your favourite Jacobsen machine and why? My personal favourite is the Eclipse 2 greens mower, the 122 model. We use 15-blade cutting units, and I really like the groomer attachment. We are also able to easily adjust the frequency of cut with just one button, and the reliability is fantastic- great mower. I am also a big fan of the Jacobsen fairway mowers. We are going to have the new SLF530 lightweight fairway mowers for the Ryder Cup; I am impressed with what I have seen so far and the team is looking forward to mowing with them this summer.
What has been your career’s biggest challenge before you came to le golf national? Without a doubt, it was when I was 25 years old. I got my first golf course superintendent position at a Jack Nicklaus signature course in the south of Spain. I had a lot of education, but it was a huge challenge. It’s hard when you are so young and you have to make your own decisions for the first time, that was a lot of pressure! Managing a team for the first time was difficult as well, it’s very easy to make mistakes when you lack experience of management, but it was a great learning curve and it made me a better person for it.
Are you keeping the blanket cut or going back to the diamond cut on the fairways for the Ryder Cup? We are going to cut the fairways all one way. It will probably be tee to green.
10 Quick-fire Questions
1. What’s your golfing handicap? I’m not a great golfer. It’s 21. I wish I could play at that standard, but I don’t practice enough. It’s officially 21, though!
2. What annoys you most? Unprofessional people
3. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be? At Le Golf National! With a few months to go until the Ryder Cup, why would I want to be anywhere else?!
4. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time? I would love to complete the certification programme of the GCSAA. It’s something that is on my to-do list. I told myself I would do it one year before the Ryder Cup, in 2017, but I just didn’t have time. I’d also like to re-read all my turf books, there are plenty of them!
5. Do you have any hidden talents? I don’t think so! But who knows, maybe we’ll find out soon…
6. What job would you be terrible at? Working with kids. When they are running around and screaming… it’s not for me. I am somebody that needs to keep control and that’s difficult with kids.
7. What skill would you like to master? I would love to be a pro-golfer. To even have a handicap of a single number would be amazing.
8. What motivates you? I use my role as a leader of a team to motivate myself. Sometimes during tournaments, you are very tired and there are lots of long hours, but I think of the team at the course and everyone smiling and proud of the job they are doing. So that really gives me motivation when I need it most.
9. Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? When I took this job, someone said to me, “Alejandro, work every day like it is your last day working.” This meaning to give maximum effort every single day. This really stuck with me.
10. Most admired sports person? Rafael Nadal. His character, his power, everything about him- I really admire him.
The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association is proud to announce that Daniel Ashelby of Wilmslow Golf Club has been proclaimed the 30th winner of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award.
At the same time, Danny Patten of Lee Park Golf Club, became the third winner of the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award.
Daniel, 25, joins a proud tradition of former awards winners that stretches back to Mark Proctor, who won the very first hosting of the award in 1989 while a student greenkeeper at Portal Golf Club in Cheshire.
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards is a nationwide contest hosted by greenkeepers’ association BIGGA and sponsored by turfcare machinery and irrigation manufacturer Toro alongside its official UK distributor Reesink Turfcare.
Each year, a selection of the best student greenkeepers, selected from regional interviews hosted across the country, descend upon BIGGA House at Aldwark Manor in York for the two-day finals of the event, where they complete a variety of tasks.
A second-generation greenkeeper, whose father was course manager at Gatley Golf Club, Daniel impressed the judges with his knowledge and passion for the profession. The presentation he delivered in front of the awards judges showed his dedication to greenkeeping and his eagerness to do well in his chosen career.
Daniel said: “I can’t believe I’ve won it to be honest. There was a really strong line-up and I couldn’t tell right until the end who had won because everybody else was fantastic. I’m absolutely delighted and I’d like to thank Toro, Reesink Turfcare and BIGGA for everything they’ve done this week, it’s amazing.”
As part of his prize, Daniel wins a seven-week scholarship at the University of Massachusetts in the USA, as well as a trip to the GCSAA’s Golf Industry Show in San Diego and a trip to Toro’s headquarters in Minneapolis.
The Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award is open to students under the age of 20 and as winner, Danny receives a two-week work placement at the exclusive Vidauban Golf Club in France, as well as a trip to BTME in Harrogate.
Danny, 20, said: “I’m shocked to have won. I thought I had done a good course walk but wasn’t sure it would be enough. Then when they announced my name to say I had won it was just the best feeling in the world. I’ve been greenkeeping for just over two years so to get this award is really promising for my career and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
BIGGA Head of Member Learning Stuart Green said: “Congratulations to Daniel and Danny, who showed outstanding passion and commitment, both during the finals of the awards and at every stage of the competition, to be crowned worthy winners of this year’s awards.
“To be crowned Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year isn’t just two days’ hard work; rather you must dedicate yourself to the greenkeeping profession every day of your working life and so both winners and everyone who made it to the finals should be incredibly proud of their achievements.
“Each year the finals of the competition get harder to judge, which gives me confidence that the future of the industry is in very safe hands.”
The runner-up in the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award was John Scurfield of Morpeth Golf Club.
The runner-up in the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award was Liam Pigden of Burnham & Berrow Golf Club.
David Cole, managing director of Reesink Turfcare and award judge, said: “Every year the challenge of selecting one winner from each category becomes greater and greater for the judges. This tells us that the greenkeeping baton is being passed to safe hands by virtue of the commitment we see in front of us from students towards their career and personal education.
“Congratulations, not only to the winners and runners-up, but also to the whole group in reaching the final in what is a very competitive awards competition. You are all a credit to yourselves and to your golf courses.”
BIGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: “We call the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards the most prestigious in the industry, but they are only made so by the commitment and dedication to the greenkeeping profession shown by those who have previously enjoyed success in the awards.
“Daniel and Danny join an incredible roster of past winners throughout the awards’ prestigious history, each of whom has done their part in elevating standards in the greenkeeping profession to new heights.
“Our thanks once again go to Toro and Reesink Turfcare for their support in hosting these annual awards, which remain a real highlight of the greenkeeping calendar.”
Applications for the 31st Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards will open in February 2019.
A career change in his early 40s has led to trainee greenkeeper Gregg Hood winning SRUC Elmwood’s annual John Deere HNC Student of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere and Scottish turf dealer Double A. Gregg was selected for his conscientious and enthusiastic approach to his programme of studies during the 2017/2018 academic year.
Born and bred in Glasgow, Gregg had a successful career as a qualified accountant and then a mortgage broker before making the jump into greenkeeping at the age of 42. “It was one of those life changing decisions that I just had to make,” he says. “I had thought for a couple of years that it was time for a change. I’ve always loved my golf, and thought it was a great environment to work in. I was also interested in how golf courses are put together, how they’re looked after and made to look so good.
“My partner Lisa was very supportive, so I finally left work in June 2017 and applied to the SRUC, having been in contact with Elmwood’s greenkeeping coordinator Mike Clark for a year or so before that. We agreed that the HNC in Golf Course Management would be the best entry level course for me, combined with volunteering on a golf course to get some practical experience.”
That golf course turned out to be St Andrews Links, where Gregg started volunteering two days a week from September 2017, about two weeks after starting the course. “It’s been fantastic, and course manager Kevin Muir and his team couldn’t have been more helpful. Everyone’s been very happy to give me the benefit of their time and knowledge, so it’s been an absolutely brilliant opportunity.
“Going in I was obviously a little apprehensive about my age, but both Mike and Kevin said if you show a good attitude and you’re there to learn, then as long as you can do the work and be a part of the team, there are no issues. I haven’t given it another thought since.
“I’ve never been part of anything like this before, certainly not in accountancy, where there’s always that element of competition, even when you’re working in a team. The only competition on a golf course is to improve your skills and make yourself a better greenkeeper. People at St Andrews Links and the college are really impressive, and all round I’ve found it to be a very encouraging environment to work in – I’m still very excited by it all.
“I’m now a BIGGA member and contracted at St Andrews Links until November 2018, and if a permanent position became available then I’d definitely apply. If not then I might try a warm weather grass course abroad over the winter months. Ultimately I would like to hone my skills and get more experience, including tournaments at other courses.”
Course tutor Paul Miller, who is based at SRUC’s Elmwood campus in Cupar, Fife, adds: “Gregg’s decision to change career was made after a great deal of research, preparation and consideration of all the implications. This thoroughness of preparation soon became evident in his course work, which he produced most conscientiously and to a very high standard right from day one – his commitment to making the most of the learning opportunity was impressive.
“Quickly realising that he would also need to build up his practical skills and his industry networking, Gregg volunteered to work at St Andrews Links, again demonstrating his enthusiasm and willingness to learn in that environment as well as in the classroom. He also applied for and was successful in gaining an R&A Greenkeeping Scholarship through SRUC.
“Having also secured a seasonal position on St Andrews Links, Gregg’s development continues apace. We all look forward to watching his growth in the industry and the contribution that he will make to greenkeeping as his career progresses.”
St Andrews Links have appointed Sandy Reid as Director of Greenkeeping at the Home of Golf. A hugely experienced figure in the greenkeeping industry, Mr Reid will make the move from Carnoustie Golf Links where he has worked as Links Superintendent since 2012.
St Andrews Links Chief Executive Euan Loudon said: “We are delighted to welcome Sandy to the Home of Golf. He has an outstanding track record at Carnoustie Golf Links, as evidenced by the wonderful condition of the Championship Course for The 147th Open Championship this summer.“Sandy has a great deal of experience of operating within a multi-faceted golf venue such as ours and shares our commitment to delivering unique and memorable experiences to every golfer. He is passionate about the game of golf and is committed to delivering the highest quality results in golf course maintenance and improvements to all our courses, operations and staff.”
Mr Reid originally hails from Blair Atholl and trained at Elmwood College in Fife before starting his career at Letham Grange. He joined Carnoustie Golf Links in 1997, becoming Head Greenkeeper of the Championship Course in 2005.
Mr Reid said: “I am extremely honoured and excited to be joining the hard working and dedicated team at the Home of Golf. “St Andrews Links is the pre-eminent public golf complex in the world and I hope to play a small part in ensuring that it continues to deliver excellence to all golfers and visitors who come to the Home of Golf.”
Over the last decade St Andrews Links has continued to make major investments in its facilities and services. In addition to maintaining seven public courses, St Andrews Links is now home to three clubhouses, five shops and the Golf Academy. It employs just over 400 people in the high season with almost 230,000 rounds of golf played on the six 18-hole courses in 2017.
Mr Reid’s appointment arose following the retirement of incumbent Gordon Moir, who has worked at the Links for more than 26 years and began his tenure as Director of Greenkeeping in October 2000. Mr Reid will take up his new role in St Andrews in early December with Mr Moir formally retiring at the end of the year.
St Andrews Links Trust www.standrews.com
Le Golf National, the host venue for The 2018 Ryder Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics, has retained GEO certification, once again highlighting its commitment to sustainable business management.
Having completed the new and improved OnCourse® programme, the venue was recently visited by independent verifier Pablo Munoz Vega, who confirmed demonstrable results and continual improvement actions over the previous three-year period.
Paul Armitage, General Manager – Le Golf National, said: “By proudly flying the GEO flag every day we are showing our customers, whether they be local residents, international visitors or corporate groups that we care about the same things that they do. We also want our staff to feel engaged and proud of the fact that Le Golf National provides great golf and much more for our community.
“Thanks to our Environmental Co-ordinator Artur Lecomte and the staff out on the course and in the clubhouse, the work we have done on waste separation, with increased reuse and recycling is particularly rewarding for all involved. All the team have found OnCourse® to be very easy to use and helpful in guiding and tracking the work and GEO Certified® is a tremendous reward.”
Le Golf National continues to show how an approach to fostering nature, conserving resources and supporting the community is part and parcel of running a profitable and highly respected golf facility.
The venues efforts are also contributing to The Ryder Cup Green Drive – the event’s sustainability programme – with partners Ryder Cup Europe and The Ryder Cup Organising Committee in France aiming to deliver the cleanest, greenest and most sustainable Ryder Cup yet.
Ryder Cup Europe Director, Richard Hills, said: “Le Golf National is a world-class golf course and we commend Paul and his team for their commitment to sustainable business management. It is vitally important that along with delivering one of the greatest sporting events in the world, that we also address these important issues and continue to work on maximising the social and environmental contribution of golf in the communities in which we play.”
Alejandro Reyes, Golf Course Superintendent added: “In the last three years sustainability has really become a facility-wide effort – moving from the golf course and maintenance facility into the clubhouse and now into marketing and communications. OnCourse® has helped a lot in that process and gives us a consistent way to make sure our practices are delivered and extended, our key data is in one place and our highlights are communicated and shared.”
Julie Duffus, Olympic Movement Sustainability Manager at the International Olympic Committee added: “Le Golf National is an excellent example of how a sustainable and successful Olympic Venue can be planned, designed, constructed and operated. Our Congratulations to the team for their efforts and success on retaining GEO Certified Status. We look forward to working together in the lead up to the Olympic Games in 2024”.
Richard Allison, Certification Manager at GEO Foundation, said: “We congratulate Le Golf National on this excellent and thoroughly deserved achievement. With the eyes of the sporting world on the course this autumn for The 2018 Ryder Cup, Le Golf National continues to strengthen its position as an ethical leader – fostering nature, conserving resources and supporting the community.”
Munoz Vega added: “It has been tremendous to witness the development of Le Golf National since their initial certification a short time ago. Commitment to sustainability and a desire to improve and keep innovating is deeply embedded in the management culture. With performance already very high I look forward to seeing the new projects and initiatives of the future.”
Key activities and results at Le Golf National include:
• Commissioned 19 hybrid electric Jacobsen Eclipse walking mowers
• Reduction in irrigation consumption by almost 40% as result of new Toro irrigation system
• 16 hectares removed from irrigation (20% of irrigated area)
• Sprinkler heads improved water distribution by 26%
• New storage reservoir and drainage allows recycling of rainwater (44% of total consumption)
• 340 tons of material recycled every year including glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and organics
• Sand from ‘Paris beach’ recycled after every summer for fairway top-dressing
• Trialling of non-chemical pest and disease control with UV lighting unit to reducing fungicide applications
• Partnership with Natural History Museum and French Golf Federation to evaluate, conserve and promote biodiversity
• Interconnected management of 10 EUNIS habitats including forest, wetland, open water, meadows and mineral landscape (three of which are classed as rare including tree species, riparian reeds and willows)
• At least 350 flora and fauna species identified to date, including 70 birds
• 13 species identified as rare including European, French and regional ‘red list’ species
• Eight microhabitats created including hibernaculums for amphibians, rock walls, beehives, bird nests, dead branches and standing tree remnants
• Increase in low-maintenance ecological rough areas
• Significant reduction of maintained turf areas, new no-spray areas and habitat buffers
• New policies and pricing to increase public access to the golf courses
• ‘GoforGolf’ campaign to introduce new players to the game
• Spearhead the development of new affordable short courses around the country
• Increase in social media presence to communicate the benefits of sustainability
• Collaboration with local government to restore the ‘Porte du Merantais’, an historic gate to Versailles Palace