An American course superintendent responsible for maintaining a remote course high in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina is celebrating after becoming BIGGA's 72nd Master Greenkeeper.
Brian Stiehler, 38, of Highlands Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina, has become one of the youngest to ever achieve the qualification in its 26-year history.
Four of the last five course managers and superintendents to have achieved Master Greenkeeper status hail from the United States, highlighting how respected the qualification has become across the globe.
Brian said: "I saw I had a voicemail from BIGGA House and my stomach just went. I was so nervous that I couldn't hit the numbers on my phone when I called back. Achieving Master Greenkeeper was the biggest goal of my career and when I heard 'congratulations' down the phone I couldn't believe I had managed it."
A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Brian has previously worked at Augusta National and spent a summer as an intern at St Andrews Links Trust. Brian also possesses the status from the GCSAA, the American equivalent of BIGGA.
"I found that achieving Master Greenkeeper was more demanding than the CGCS," explained Matt. "But there are only 72 Master Greenkeepers in the world and that makes it an incredibly prestigious qualification to have.
"I have always had an appreciation for BIGGA and I love getting Greenkeeper International delivered to my club each month. So I have long known about Master Greenkeeper and I made it my main goal in my career to achieve the qualification."
Highlands Country Club was home to one of the greatest golfers who ever lived in Bobby Jones Jr. Five years after helping to found Highlands Country Club, he would put his name to another course, which would go on to become arguably the world's most famous - Augusta National in Georgia.
In order to become a Master Greenkeeper, candidates must have at least 10 years' greenkeeping experience, which must also include a minimum of three years in a course manager, superintendent or head greenkeeper position.
Check out an upcoming edition of Greenkeeper International for an in-depth look at Highlands Country Club and the challenges faced by the team who must produce a golf course within a temperate rainforest climate high within the mountains of North Carolina