0 On the road again!

Whatever sports discipline you work in there will be many days Bernards team l-r Ben taylor, Steve Nixon Gary Woodward.jpgwhen you are up with the lark and to bed with the nightingale! Your members, committee and players chunter on about the state of the greens, the lack of grass on your pitch and a plethora of other mindless 'issues'! Through it all you remain cool, calm and collected (albeit whilst seething inside) and smile in all the right places.

And then the sales rep turns up in his shiny new 4x4. He may well have made an appointment - he may even have something you need - but you are in the middle of something really important and his mere existence is enough to make your blood boil.

So what is it really like for these 'nine to fivers' with their perceived high wages, commission payments and free travel?

Laurence Gale MSc joins the Bernhard sales and demo team on a trip to Ireland.

My induction into the world of sales and demonstration began on a Sunday morning at 9.30am. I was waiting in the service station at junction 5 of the M54, in deepest Shropshire, to be picked up by Gary Woodward, Territory Manager of Bernhard & Co. Our destination was Ireland via the Holyhead ferry. If you think Ferry crossing.jpgSunday at 9.30am is bad then spare a thought for Gary who had left his Rugby home at 8.00am.

The speed of his journey, and our subsequent travel, was dictated by his load - two grinders, an Express Dual and Anglemaster 3000, weighing close to a tonne, and being transported in a not inconsiderable sized trailer!

Four hours later we arrived in Anglesey to catch the 1.00pm Dun Laoghaire ferry. The crossing was unusually calm and we docked at 5.00pm. With our grinders in tow we slowly headed off to the north of the fair city of Dublin to collect two more of the Bernhard team, UK Sales Manager, Steve Nixon, and Technical Training Manager, Ben Taylor, from the airport.

To add to what had already been a long day, their flight was delayed and they eventually met up with us at 7.00pm. But, our day of travel wasn't anywhere near over! We had a further three and a half hour journey to County Mayo on the west coast, and the little town of Claremorris. We eventually settled into our hotel at just before 11.00pm, fifteen hours after Gary had set off from Rugby.

The purpose of all this effort was a series of demonstrations by the Bernhard team at four golf courses in Ireland. The fourArriving at Ballingrobe.jpg day tour had been organised by Kevin Broderick, Sales Director of one of the country's leading machinery dealers, Brodericks Grass Machinery, with assistance from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland (GCSAI).

After a much needed good night's sleep we were all up bright and early with Kevin joining us for breakfast. Our first port of call was Ballingrobe Golf Club, an 18 hole, par 73 course that Padraig Harrington rates as "the best championship course on the west coast".

Whilst Gary set up the grinders in the Greenkeepers workshop, Steve and Ben set up the PowerPoint presentation in the clubhouse. The format of the day was a two hour presentation on the benefits of mower sharpening, a break for lunch, followed, in the afternoon, by practical demonstrations of the grinders.

The morning sessions began with Steve and Ben introducing themselves to the twenty-five assembled Greenkeepers from local courses, with an Unloading Express Grinders.jpgBen sharpening bottom blade.jpg [cropped]

explanation of the role of the company, the history of mowers and how, and why, grinders had been developed. This was followed by a detailed explanation of the benefits of having sharp mowers and the different methods available to maintain mower sharpness.

Steve has been with Bernhard for seven years, three and half of those working in America, on tournament golf preparations. Before that he worked as a mower mechanic and Greenkeeper. Ben, like Steve, has also come through the mechanical training route gaining extensive experience working with mower manufacturers. He is also a qualified Greenkeeper.

The duo explained how Bernhard prefer the non contact method of cutting which they believe gives a superior cut, causes less stress to the grass, consequently, improving the quality of the greens, and resulting in the plant requiring less feeding.

After a light lunch the assembled Greenkeepers were given a demonstration of how cylinders and bottom blades can be sharpened quickly and efficiently, with the team showing how a complete set of triple units can be stripped down and sharpened in under forty five minutes using the Anglemaster and Express Dual.

A Rapid Facer was also put through its paces, showing how the facing edge of the bottom blade can be ground in just a few minutes.

Steve explained that, with many Greenkeepers now topdressing on a more regular basis, cylinders are subjected to far more than 'just cutting grass' and will, therefore, require more frequent sharpening.intro by GCSAI.jpg

With many golf clubs not owning a grinder, mowers are sent to be serviced and re-sharpened during the winter months, returning for use around March-April time, which is probably the worse possible time with so much surface debris on the greens. Usually, by the time of optimum summer growth, the mower cylinders will be cutting poorly because of this.

The strong message being conveyed was that regular sharpening of cylinders and bottom blades offered huge benefits over a 'once a year relief grind'.

It was now late into the afternoon, time to pack up and move on to our next destination and a 150 mile drive to Fota Island Golf Club near Cork, a five star resort owned by the Sheraton group.

Steve lecturing.jpgWe arrived at our hotel at 9.00pm, checked in and then met up for dinner to reflect on the day's events. The team agreed it had been a good turn out with some positive interest being shown.

As our hotel was part of the golf complex we had no driving to do in the morning, just a matter of having breakfast and walking across to the golf workshops to set up the presentation and the grinders.

Over twenty Greenkeepers were in attendance, many of them coming to see the course as much as to attend the road show. Again, there was lots of interest in the rudiments of sharpening mowers with plenty of questions being asked of Steve and Ben.

We packed up around 3.30pm and soon got on the road eastward to our third stop at Rosslare, another 130 miles, finally reaching the hotel early in the evening. It was the same routine - dinner, chat, drink Demos at Rosslare.jpg(half of shandy) bed and up for 7.00am the next day to deliver the presentation at Rosslare Golf club, a wonderful 18 hole, par 73, links course on the Wexford Peninsular.

We set up in the small tea rooms provided. There to meet us was the Head Greenkeeper, Andrew Doyle, who has been at the club for forty-two years, and Alan Mahon, the editor of Greenside, the official magazine of the GCSAI.

Andrew walked the course with me and showed me the stunning views. Of great interest to me was something hidden away in one of the sheds - a 1950s Atterton & Ellis grinder in all its glory. A real old treasure.

Our final destination was Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, back up the east coast and close to the ferry terminal, and another100 plus mile drive for Gary!
Dun Laoghaire is a truly magnificent golf course, 27 holes in a beautiful setting with spectacular views dominated by the Irish Sea and Sugar Loaf, the start of the Wicklow Mountains.

Machine shed at Dun Laoghaire GC.jpgIt is a brand new course, only opened last year and it oozes quality. Its workshops and machinery shed were impressive, very large and filled with the best machinery money could buy.

The workshop was kitted out with the latest grinders from Bernhard, making the lads feel at home.

The turnout was the best yet with over thirty-five Greenkeepers attending the presentation and demonstrations. All shared my total amazement at the quality of the course and workshops.

We completed the demonstrations at 3.00pm. Robbie Foley, from Brodericks, took Steve and Ben back to the airport in Dublin whilst Gary and I made our way to the ferry terminal for a 5.00pm departure.

Once back in Holyhead Gary faced another four hour drive to get home.Greenkeepers at Dun Laoghaire GC.jpg

So that was it. Five days on the road. Nearly 900 miles covered in Ireland alone, long days, short nights, too many shandies and lots of hard work. Including setting up, the demonstration days totalled twenty-eight hours - the driving time seemed a lot longer!

Over ninety Greenkeepers attended over the four days and, probably, not even they were aware of just how much time and effort goes in to making their day worthwhile. I certainly do. The next time a rep comes calling perhaps you might view his job in a new light?


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