Matt Perks, first assistant greenkeeper and mechanic at Ham Manor Golf Club in West Sussex, has followed in his mentor's footsteps by winning the title of Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year 2011.
Matt was inspired to enter the competition by Ham Manor's course manager, Alan Pierce, who won the title in 2005. Twenty-eight-year-old Matt, who originally hails from Somerset, has now done his boss proud by beating off competition from seven fellow student greenkeepers to take the coveted title at the recent national finals held at BIGGA House in York.
"Alan really spurred me on to improve my greenkeeping knowledge and skills, with entering this competition something I was always working towards," reveals Matt. "It's been hard work, but it's really paid off. The other guys were fantastic, so it hasn't quite sunk in yet that I've won! I can't stop smiling!"
It was Matt's long-held ambition and appetite for learning that impressed the judges in the climax of the competition, which is sponsored by turf machinery and irrigation systems manufacturer Toro and its distributor Lely UK, and organised by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA).
As part of his prize, Plumpton College student Matt has won an amazing, all-expenses-paid trip to the US. After attending a six-week residential turf management course at the University of Massachusetts in early 2012, he'll also benefit from visits to The Toro Company's global headquarters in Minneapolis and renowned GCSAA Golf Industry Show & Conference in Las Vegas in February.
"The educational trip to the States really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Matt continues. "Like a lot of people in our industry, university wasn't something I could afford and so to get the chance to study the very latest turf management techniques in Massachusetts is something I'm extremely grateful to BIGGA, Toro and Lely for. All in all, I feel proud and privileged to work in an industry that has not only given me a great life, but has now also awarded me for my efforts. I look forward to representing BIGGA as the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year over the next 12 months."
The judging panel, including Lely's Peter Mansfield, Bruce Jamieson, representing The Toro Company, and BIGGA's Chris Sealey and Sami Collins, also selected two runners up. Robert Mills, 24, an assistant greenkeeper at Sunningdale Golf Club and Merrist Wood College student, and Miles Todd, 24, deputy course manager at Rhuddlan Golf Club and Deeside College student, both win a trip to Harrogate Week in January.