John O'Gaunt Golf Club greenkeeper, Steve Thompson, has picked up the prestigious Syngenta Operation Pollinator Award, for the golf club's consistently outstanding ecological habitat creation and management.
The Award was presented to Steve at the Golf Environment Awards ceremony, organised by the STRI at BTME Harrogate, along with colleagues Kevin Armstrong and Chris Watts of the John O'Gaunt greenkeeping team.
As one of the great champions of the Operation Pollinator initiative - set up to introduce more bee-friendly wildflower areas around golf courses - Steve has successfully overseen the planting and management of more than three hectares of dedicated habitat; welcomed by the club's players and a wealth of pollinating insects.
"Operation Pollinator was the instigator of our habitat creation that has now become an integral part of our wider environmental management plan for wildlife and biodiversity around the courses," he said.
Steve added: "John O'Gaunt is extremely proud of its reputation for providing consistently high-quality golf playing surfaces, but also managing the surrounding environment that makes it such an attractive place to come and play."
The Bedfordshire golf club, near Sandy, offers two premier 18-hole courses: the historical wooded parkland John O'Gaunt course, and the contrasting, more open, free-draining Carthegena. A host for some of the region's leading golf competitions, the Club has also won widespread praise from independent ecologists for its environmental work.
Syngenta Operation Pollinator Manager, Caroline Carroll, highlighted that John O'Gaunt's success in winning award was recognition of the entire greenkeeping team's efforts, led by Course Manager, Nigel Broadwith, and the Club's commitment to proactively utilising the whole area of the golf course.
Caroline added that John O'Gaunt has clearly demonstrated that it is possible and rewarding to balance managing the course to give the players the ultimate golfing experience, along with developing surrounding and out-of-play areas to provide an immense ecological resource.
"Golf courses can be a real environmental asset to any area," she enthused. "Far from being a 'green desert' frequently portrayed, they can be proactively managed to be ecological oasis that should be championed and promoted as a positive and sustainable initiative of the golf industry."
Operation Pollinator Award judge and STRI Ecology Consultant, Sophie Vukelic, added: "It is so encouraging to see that Operation Pollinator has been taken on board by so many golf clubs around the UK.
"It really highlights how the golfing industry has changed over the past decade, with much more emphasis on the ecological value of golf courses and their ability to provide a wildlife resource within the wider landscape.
"The success of john O'Gaunt and the Award should inspire others to play a part in conserving vitally important pollinators, through the creation of wildflower habitats promoted by Operation Pollinator."