Three top greenkeepers are celebrating after achieving BIGGA's Master Greenkeeper status, one of the most prestigious accreditations within the golf course management industry
The latest successful candidates are Stuart Ferguson from Dundas Parks Golf Club in Scotland, Matthew Wharton from Carolina Golf Club in North Carolina and Erin Stevens from Emerald Dunes Club in Florida.
For Stevens, the award has come after suffering a family tragedy last year. His wife, Ana, passed away, leading him to withdrawing from the round of exams in October.
Stevens said he almost withdrew again in April - when the latest set of exams took place - but eventually decided to go ahead with the assessment. He said: "I am glad that I continued in the program after the passing of my wife, Ana. She was my biggest supporter and wanted to see me achieve this accomplishment.
"It was a very challenging process and I am grateful to have passed and joined the small ranks of fellow Master Greenkeepers. I would like to thank all my family and friends for their support, as well as all of the staff at BIGGA who were a tremendous help throughout this process.
"I highly recommend this process to all our peers and I know I will become a better manager for having gone through theMaster Greenkeeper certification process."
To achieve the certificate, BIGGA members must have been within the greenkeeping industry for more than a decade.
With the success of the latest trio, the worldwide total of Master Greenkeepers has risen to just 70.
Ferguson, from Dundas Parks, Edinburgh, said: "Prior to enrolling I did some research and obtained feedback from current Master Greenkeepers. The feedback was consistent in that the process was very demanding and challenging, however rewarding at the same time.
"I felt that as a course manager you should always try to improve your skill set. This accolade is one of the highest in the industry and at this stage in my career I wanted to challenge myself professionally and personally.
"I am fortunate to enjoy the continuous support of the club, management, members and greenkeeping crew. It's a fabulous, progressive place to work and my team, past and present, should be proud of their efforts as this accolade includes them."
The Master Greenkeeper certificate is popular with superintendents of courses in North America as has such a prestigious reputation within the industry.
Wharton, of Carolina GC in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he was delighted to receive the call saying he had been successful. He added: "I had no idea how I had done in the exams as they were very challenging. My wife and I have been checking the mailbox everyday for the past week to see if the results had been sent through."
Stuart Green, BIGGA's head of member learning, said: "Congratulations to Stuart, Matthew and Erin. Our Master Greenkeeper certificate is now in its 26th year and attracts golf course managers and superintendents from all over the world. Master Greenkeeper is a learning experience and I would recommend any golf course manager, whoaspires to the highest standards, to give it a go."
The Master Greenkeeper certificate is achieved through a three-stage process.
Stage one is education, training and experience. Candidates must earn a minimum of 200 career development credits, which are awarded for a range of formal and informal education and training and for years of greenkeeping experience.
To progress to the next two stages,applicants must be a course manager, head greenkeeper or superintendent andhave 10 years' experience working as a greenkeeper. They must have three years' experience working as a head greenkeeper, course manager or superintendent and have spent two years in that role on their current golf course.
The next stage sees two Master Greenkeepers visiting the candidate's course during the growing season to undergo an inspection of the operation of the golf course.
The final stage comprises of two, three-hour examinations, a case study and a technical paper. Held twice a year, the examinations are written and marked by a panel of assessors and both examinations must be passed for the certificate to be achieved.
For more information, visit www.bigga.org.uk.