Toro's Student Greenkeeper of the Year 2007 has recently returned from an eight-week educational trip to the USA.
Avon Bridges, 27, won the trip after beating off stiff competition in his regional heat and then from seven fellow greenkeepers in the national finals held at BIGGA House in Aldwalk near York in autumn of last year to take the prestigious title.
Having completed a six-week residential turf management course at the University of Massachusetts, Avon is now back at work as head greenkeeper of Luton Hoo Golf Club in Bedfordshire, where he is putting his newly acquired knowledge to good use.
He says of his prize placement: "My trip was pretty intense to say the least! I've attended 40 hours of lectures every week for six weeks. The whole thing's been really hard work, but worth it. It's been fantastic to meet greenkeepers from different parts of the world and to get an insight into different styles of greenkeeping."
In particular, Avon says that the course has reinforced the practical learning he gained while at Oaklands College, which put him forward for the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year competition. As he explains: "There's a far more academic approach to learning about greenkeeping in the States, so I've learned a lot more about the science behind my existing knowledge. I know a great deal more about soil types and fertilisers."
Avon's trip also included visits to The Toro Company's headquarters in Minneapolis, the Toro Irrigation Division and the GCSAA golf industry show in Anaheim. "I'd like to thank everyone from The Toro Company for making me feel so welcome," he adds.
Having fallen into greenkeeping as a trainee at Finchley Golf Club after leaving school at the age of 17, Avon has quickly risen up the ranks over the last 10 years and now looks to the future with even more enthusiasm thanks to this award. "It's very easy to just get on with your own job," he says, "but this award has made me stand up and take a more active interest in the greenkeeping industry as a whole."
Would he encourage others to follow in his footsteps by entering the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year 2008 awards scheme? "I'd certainly recommend other student greenkeepers get involved. The nomination alone was a great boost for my career, let alone winning the title - a career is built on reputation. Many thanks to Lely UK and The Toro Company for the award."
For further information on the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards 2008, please contact Sami Collins, BIGGA's head of learning and development, at BIGGA House, Aldwark, Alne, York, YO61 1UF. Call 01347 833800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo caption: Avon Bridges (right) and fellow students study a soil sample as part of their residential turf management course at the University of Massachusetts. (Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amhert.)