Greenkeeper awards at BTME 2019

A greenkeeper at Chipstead Golf Club in Surrey received a standing ovation at the BIGGA Awards, held on the opening evening of the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME) this January, in recognition of his selfless efforts in helping the homeless.

Jack Percival of Chipstead Golf Course, Surrey

Jack Percival now 24, found himself homeless for six months at the age of 17. In the years since he has turned his life around and works hard to support those who sleep out on the streets.

Deputy course manager Jack was among the prize winners at the BIGGA Welcome Celebration, where he was awarded the Outstanding Contribution of the Year sponsored by Jacobsen.

Just before Christmas Jack hosted an event in Croydon, London that provided food and warmth for the homeless during Christmas. He put out an appeal on social media for donations, with a huge number from within the golf industry and the wider world responding.

The work was a huge success, but is just one example of Jack’s incredible efforts to support the homeless and those less fortunate. Each Christmas he had previously made up sandwiches and soup and travelled via bus to Croydon to give out food to the homeless.

Volunteering commitment

He also volunteers weekly with Croydon Nightwatch, which is where a member of staff encouraged him to seek support for the aid he provides at Christmas. Since then, Jack received van loads of sleeping bags, hygiene essentials and warm clothes, in addition to donations of food, raising national awareness of his campaign.

Jack said: “This is unbelievable, I didn’t think I could cry in front of hundreds of people, it was just brilliant. 

I didn’t do this for an award, I was homeless myself when I was 17 and I did six months on the street. I turned my life around, met my partner, and this is just the start for me. We did a big feed at Christmas and there was one guy who cried because he got a haircut. I saw a guy dance because he got new shoes and you can’t put a price on that.”

BIGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: “When I heard Jack’s story I was absolutely blown away. Having heard what he went through during those six months when he lived on the street and then seeing how he has worked tirelessly in the years since to not only turn his life around but also provide opportunities for others less fortunate, is quite inspirational.

“I’m delighted that we have been able to recognise Jack’s achievements in this small way. He is an incredible young man and I’m proud to call him a member of the association.”

Champion Performance 

Other winners on the evening of celebrations included the greenkeeping team at Harleyford Golf Club in Buckinghamshire.  

The team were proud winners of  the BIGGA Awards 2019 Championship Performance of the Year sponsored by Rigby Taylor just five years after the club was declared bankrupt.

Harleyford greenkeeping team

They were recognised for their incredible performance in preparing the course for The Matchroom Sport Championship. Harleyford, which is the home course of European Tour star Tyrell Hatton, has a team of six greenkeepers whose office is 1.5 miles from the golf course – meaning a 15-minute drive from the maintenance facility to the first tee.

The team has not only been commended for its incredible work in preparing the course to a standard worthy of hosting a professional tournament, but the staging of the event didn’t go without incident. 

When stormy conditions and heavy rain on the eve of the tournament completely washed out the club’s bunkers, the team worked through the night to replace the sand, with even Craig’s fiancée, Tracy Forth, being enlisted to cut rough and blow fairways.

The tireless efforts of the team paid off and Harleyford has been chosen to again host the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Matchroom Sport Championship once again in 2019.

Craig said: “This is mad, I can’t believe it to be honest. When you look at who I was up against, I am really just a little short for words. I didn’t think we would win. The guys on my team were amazing and they’re a real credit to the golf club.”

Of this win Jim Croxton declared: “I’m delighted that the team at Harleyford was nominated for this award as they are a fantastic example of what can be achieved with a talented and determined team led by an exceptional course manager, as Harleyford has in Craig Earnshaw. For the club to bounce back from bankruptcy to the hosting of the PGA EuroPro Tour is quite remarkable and to then overcome the stormy conditions that plagued the build-up to the tournament is exceptional. Congratulations to everyone at the club and good luck for 2019!

Father project 

Stuart Imeson of Dunstanburg Castle, Northumbria

And finally, BIGGA member Stuart Imeson rounded off a banner year that saw him become a father for the first time and then be placed in charge of the entire operations at his golf club by winning a prestigious industry award.

Stuart, general manager and head greenkeeper at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumbria was the winner of the BIGGA Awards 2019 Greenkeeping Project of the Year sponsored by Baroness.

In addition to taking on parenting duties and embracing his changing role at the golf club, Stuart has continued to provide excellent educational opportunities for fellow BIGGA members through his incredibly-successful Bunker Camps, which was a sell-out in 2018 as greenkeepers from across Europe came together to take part.

Bunker camp has been running for five years and was initially envisioned as a way for Stuart’s young team – he was only 23 at the time – to interact and network with other likeminded greenkeepers. The camp sees volunteers head to Dunstanburgh Castle to participate in the construction of revetted bunkers over a two-week period, with educational seminars and workshops taking place alongside the practical greenkeeping. More than 250 people have now been involved since the start of the bunker camp and education days.

Stuart said: “To be honest I’m a little bit star struck by the whole thing. If you just look at the standard of people that were up for awards, it’s an amazing achievement. If you look at my three lads, it’s absolutely out of this world to even think we could win something like this.”

On this award Jim Croxton said:  “Stuart is a fantastic example of the modern greenkeeper who is both highly-trained and keen to communicate about the work he undertakes to further improve standards across the industry. He has a genuine passion for greenkeeping and to develop the course at Dunstanburgh Castle, but the beauty of the Bunker Camp project has been that it has helped hundreds of golf courses across the region to improve their own standards, which is highly commendable.