In the first of our profiles of the nominees for the GCMA Manager of the Year Awards, which will be presented at GCMA 2021 Conference next month, we talk to those up for Team of the Year…
The Team of the Year includes the club manager, golf professional, food and beverage manager and head greenkeeper.
The nominees are: Long Ashton, in Bristol; Ganton, in North Yorkshire; and Seacroft, Lincolnshire.
Long Ashton, in Bristol, is run by General Manager Gareth Morgan. The team also consists of Course Manager James Braithwaite, Food and Beverage manager Glenn McNaughton, and Head Professional Jack Heginbotham.
Congratulations Gareth on being a being a nominee for Team of the Year…
We are delighted. As a GCMA member, I’ve been to the last four Conferences, and I’ve got a good friend who has been the GM in Team of the Year and I’ve been absolutely delighted to see him win it.
We’ve been fortunate enough to be nominated this year. Whoever wins the awards this time around, it should almost be like Arsenal when they went unbeaten! They should have a gold trophy because if you win it through the era of Covid you’ve really pulled your socks up.
What do you think has brought this recognition?
We’ve won six 59club Awards in the last two years for service levels, mystery shopper reports, and for recognition of the level of engagement we’re doing with our members and visitors in terms of surveys.
We were at the 59club Award dinner the very night the Prime Minister announced for the first time that it [the Covid situation] was going to be bad.
Glenn, my Food and Beverage manager, turned to me and said, ‘if we have to lock down, some of our members are going to struggle to get food because they won’t want to go out shopping. We should run a takeaway food service’.
It was that conversation that not only sparked a takeaway food service but a lot of meetings between all the staff. We said, ‘some clubs are just going to shut down through this. We’re going to use it as an opportunity to give a service we’ve never given to the members before, to do things that we wouldn’t normally get the time to do, and to make sure that they stay engaged with us really throughout whatever is about to come’.
A week later that became a national lockdown. Everything really came from there. That idea wasn’t mine. It was inspired by a conversation with Glenn. Everything that then went into our nomination has sprung up from that attitude.
‘We can’t let them play golf. We can’t serve them a drink, but what can we do to make sure they appreciate being a member of this club?’
Ganton, in North Yorkshire, is led by Managing Secretary Gary Pearce. The team also includes Course Manager Simon Olver, Steward John Pugh, Caterer Marc Presswell, Professional Gary Brown and Assistant Secretary Emma Brown
Ganton’s obviously a hugely regarded course, Gary, but it still must be lovely to receive accolades like this…
It is a great reflection on how the team have pulled together in a difficult year with Covid and the huge demands of the tournaments we have had. We have still been getting over a fire [in the greenkeeper’s shed] from the end of 2019 and they have done it amid a great background of adversity. That’s why I wanted to nominate them. Everyone’s got a Covid story but these guys have done something over and above.
As you say, it’s been a hugely busy time with Covid, course works, major tournaments. Give me an insight into what that has been like…
The tournaments this year were tricky to manage under Covid conditions. We were originally scheduled a May date for the Brabazon. All the preparations went to that only for it to be postponed until a later date. So we had to prepare for it twice. A lot of the effort and the work that goes in six weeks prior was replicated again later in the year.
We had the R&A Seniors Amateur in July, which was an amazing success but played under Covid guidelines.
The R&A were very conscious they wanted it to be a sealed event with no spectators. Then we followed up the County Team Championships about a week later and, three weeks later, with the rescheduled Brabazon.
How have you been able to pull the team together through that?
It’s been a huge team effort. They all really pulled together. It’s been a lot more work, a lot of overtime, and we’ve taken new staff on.
We took advantage of the Government’s Kickstarter campaign to bring some young people in. We’ve all jumped in.
There’s been some little things – a national laundry shortage and we’ve ended up going into the Dormy house, and turning the laundry, washing and drying our laundry, because we can’t get contractors to help out. It’s been a real team effort and pulling together in all departments.
You’ll be very much looking forward to the awards night?
I just hope I can bring something home to give the staff a real boost that I believe they need. It will be a good reflection of the hard work they have put in.
Seacroft GC, in Lincolnshire, consists of Director of Golf Robin Lawie. The team also includes Office Manager & Company Secretary Susan Turner; Tim Harris, Head Greenkeeper, and Amelia Johnson, AJ Catering (Club Franchisee)
What are your team’s thoughts, Susan, on being one of the finalists?
It’d great for the club, great for us as a team, and good for me as well. It’s always hard being female in the golf role because it is pretty male dominated. It would be amazing. It would be fantastic.
What have you done to get this recognition?
We’ve got a five-year-plan of course alterations. We’ve got Clyde Johnston coming every year and we’ve been doing four holes every year – with next year being the last year. We are trying to make it more interesting for lower handicaps and easier for the higher handicaps.
We have a SSSI site on the course and we work closely with Natural England and we have rare breeds. We’re pretty green – we’ve got a Biomass boiler, solar panels, and we’re heavily into recycling.
I managed to secure us a grant for £5,000 earlier in the year so we can have intelligentgolf and we’re going through the process of installing that. That should go live in November.
We work well as a team. We meet every week to discuss anything that’s happening on the course and we try and create the best experience we can for members and visitors.
Are your team planning anything in the future?
We’ve got another year of Clyde for the course improvements and are actually looking at course irrigation at the moment – getting the finances organised and arranging members’ meetings.
We’re looking at installing total course irrigation next October. With the climate, it is just getting hotter and hotter and drier. I know we’re a links course but even the top courses – St Andrews, Turnberry, Royal Portrush, Carnoustie, Lytham and St Annes – they have all got course irrigation. It’s the future. If we want to continue as a Championship Course and thrive and move forward, we’ve got to spend the money and we’ve got to do it.
On the more green issues, we’ve got a big car park. I’m looking at what grants I can get to put a couple of [electric] charging points in the car park. In the pro shop, we are trying to implement a plastic tee ban.
Apart from that, I’m studying my GCMA Diploma!
Sum up again what it means to be a finalist?
We really do want to win the Award. It would be absolutely amazing for the club, good for the members, good for the directors and good for us too.
We want to push Seacroft. It’s a good course and more people need to come down here and play us.
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