The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, alongside Toro and Reesink Turfcare, has revealed the 11 finalists who will contest this year's Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards.
The 31st hosting of the finals of the prestigious awards will take place at BIGGA House in North Yorkshire, following a nationwide search for the country's leading student greenkeepers.
A record 46 students were nominated for the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award, with seven talented candidates making it through to the grand final, to be held on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 September 2019.
Up for grabs will also be the fourth Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award, which is only open to qualifying students under the age of 20 at the time they were nominated. Four candidates have been invited to attend the finals.
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year finalists are:
1. Thomas Bird, Sutton Coldfield
2. Daryn Curtis, Farleigh Court
3. James Dawson, Oulton Hall
4. Vince DeMarzo, The Wisley
5. Jason Norwood, Rudding Park
6. Matthew Strudwick, Royal Norwich
7. Nicholas Turner, Royal Dornoch
The Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year finalists are:
1. Tom Bromfield, Trentham
2. Josh Marshall, The Worcestershire
3. Sam Richards, Sherborne
4. Lewis Westwood, Celtic Manor
Vince DeMarzo of The Wisley is set to become the first student ever to have participated in both awards. Vince was runner-up at the first Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award in 2016, winning a trip to Continue to Learn at BTME in January 2017.
The prize winners and runners-up from 2018 were Liam Pigden, Danny Patten, Daniel Ashelby and John Scurfield
Each year the awards enable BIGGA, the UK's only membership association for golf greenkeepers, to work alongside its Partners, the turf maintenance equipment manufacturer Toro and distributor Reesink Turfcare, to celebrate the next generation of talented greenkeepers who are dedicating themselves to a career within the industry.
The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year winner will receive an eight-week all expenses paid scholarship to America, including a six-week residential turf management study course at the University of Massachusetts, a trip to the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Florida and a visit to Toro's facilities.
The Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year winner will receive a work experience placement at the exclusive Vidauban Golf Club in southern France. They will also receive a trip to Continue to Learn at BTME and enjoy a five-night package that includes hotel, four days of education, travel and £125 expenses, plus a Toro training voucher.
Stuart Green, head of member learning at BIGGA, said: "At a time when golf clubs are finding it increasingly difficult to attract the next generation of greenkeepers in to the profession, I'm delighted that we had more nominations than ever before for the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards. The extremely high standard of candidates that we interviewed reinforced what a fantastic and rewarding profession this can be.
"I was once again astounded by the enthusiasm and knowledge for the industry shown by the candidates and it's clear that the future of the industry is in safe hands.
"My thanks go to Toro and Reesink Turfcare in their continued support and thanks go to everyone who took part this year."
David Cole, Reesink Turfcare managing director and award sponsor, said: "In 2019 we are celebrating Toro's centennial milestone serving the golf industry and that gives me pause to reflect on the current 'state of greenkeeping' and in particular the longevity of The Toro Student Greenkeeper Awards. From what I see and hear from this year's crop of participants and finalists, the future is bright. This is evidenced not only by a focused mind-set and commitment to learn from so many early on in their working life, but also by increasing numbers of students who have made significant career changes later in their working life. Both are committing and investing wholeheartedly in their greenkeeping futures."