Rhys Norville, an assistant greenkeeper at Newport Golf Club in South Wales, has won the title of Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year 2009. And with it, a dream trip of a lifetime to study turf management in America.
Now in its 21st year, Rhys made this year's competition even more exciting by becoming both its youngest ever winner as well as the first Welsh recipient of the title.
The 21-year-old won the prestigious award after beating off stiff competition from six fellow student greenkeepers at the national finals held at BIGGA House near York recently. A Coleg Gwent student who has just completed an NVQ Level 2 in Horticulture (Sports Turf) at the Usk college, Rhys wowed the judges with his maturity and passion for greenkeeping.
"My heart was pounding when we were waiting for the winner to be announced," Rhys says of the final stages of the competition, which is sponsored by turf machinery and irrigation systems manufacturer Toro and its UK distributor Lely UK, and organised by BIGGA. "I certainly didn't expect my name to be read out as the standard of the finalists was so high - all the guys were great. I was in a state of disbelief when I won!"
Rhys, who has been a golf fan since the age of 16 and wanted to be a golf teaching pro before being bitten by the greenkeeping bug, has won an amazing, all-expenses-paid trip to the States as part of his prize. After attending a six-week residential turf management course at the University of Massachusetts in early 2010, he'll also benefit from visits to The Toro Company's global headquarters in Minneapolis and renowned GCSAA Golf Industry Show & Conference in San Diego in February.
"I'm looking forward to the trip and all the experiences that it will bring," Rhys adds. "I'd like to thank BIGGA, Toro and Lely for all the work they did to organise the competition and 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 Jeff Mills and Sami Collins, also selected two runners-up. Benjamin Burrill, 24, an assistant greenkeeper at Ilkley Golf Club in Yorkshire and Askham Bryan College student, and Adam Wise, 24, an assistant greenkeeper at Richmond Golf Club in Surrey and Myerscough College student, both win a trip to Harrogate Week in January.
Photo caption: Rhys Norville has been announced as the winner of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award.