By Laurence Gale MSc
In the golf industry his dedication and commitment is renowned. To colleges and greenkeeping students Mike is the Mr Fixit for golf placements in the United States.
For the last twenty years Mike has been the International Programme Manager for Ohio State University (OSU). His role is to promote golf working opportunities for overseas single students aged between 19 and 28. The majority of these students come from the UK and have the opportunity to attend work-based programmes lasting between 12 and 18 months.
The usual route to and onto these programmes is based on recommendations by the students' sports turf colleges, such as Sparsholt, Myerscouth, Cannington and Elmwood.
The minimum education requirement for these programmes is NVQ level 2. Mike evaluates each applicant and tries to place him/her on the most appropriate course/courses available based on the student's qualifications and work related experience.
Mike oversees 120 placements per year on to the programme. With over twenty years experience all eventualities have been catered for, including the official documentation, visas, health insurances and accommodation arrangements.
The students get a wide and varied working experience and have the opportunity to work on different golf courses both in warm and cool season climates.
The students get paid a salary of between 7-10 dollars an hour. It may not sound much, however taking into account the low cost of accommodation and food and other expenses it is usually more than adequate. There is also the added bonus of a tax rebate when they return to the UK.
The American Course Superintendents appreciate what the UK students bring with them, usually a very good work ethos; hours can some time be long and arduous, especially on tournament courses. Mike says that although the students may be lacking in some technical areas they bring a positive attitude and sound experiences with them which the Americans like to share.
Glen Kirby, current Head Greenkeeper of the Heritage Course at the London Golf Club, completed an 18 month golf working tour programme for Mike last year. He had a national diploma in golf course management and had experience of working on European courses. However, the opportunity to work in the United States was an important step in Glen's career path structure.
He was able to experience working on two cool season courses, and also found some time to visit and see some warm season grass golf courses. The whole experience was a real eye opener, particularly how much money is spent on fertilisers and fungicides. He certainly came back to the UK with many new ideas and concepts on golf course management.
Mike also runs a reciprocal programme for American students who want to gain experience working in the UK. He has arranged programmes at Celtic Manor, The London Golf Club and many more courses across the country.
Many of the students take back with them skills and experiences that may, hopefully, unlock future golf working opportunities both home and abroad. Overall, however, Mike knows that they have all had a life changing experience, taking home with them many fond memories.