Meet the triple crown tutor

. minute read

Each of the previous three winners of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards, Jason Norwood, Matt Milligan and James Gaskell, all have one thing in common – Andy Kenworthy.

With three successive Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year winners in a row, Andy’s obviously doing something right and with nominations open for the 2023 edition of the awards until the end of March, we caught up with Andy to discover what makes an award-winning student greenkeeper.

The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards enables ambitious BIGGA members to meet and compete with the best greenkeeping students in the UK

Congratulations on having three winners of the Toro Student Greenkeeper Awards. How did you react when James, the latest, was announced as the winner?

It’s been fantastic, I still can’t take it in that it’s been three on the bounce.

I originally got these guys together when they started their Level 2. Matt was at Oakdale in Harrogate, Jason was at Rudding Park and James was at Ripon City. Once I had introduced them, they started talking and meeting up and just chatting. For them all to reach the height of being a Toro Student of the Year is absolutely fantastic.

James Gaskell, 2022 winner

When did you realise these three students were special?

You can tell because they’re keen and really interested in the industry and want to learn more. They’ve got a real thirst for knowledge and they’re always looking for that bit extra. They’re going to go on and do great things with their lives and their careers.

They’re three very different lads though, aren’t they?

They’re very different, but the key thing is they all have a passion for the industry, although they may approach it in slightly different ways. I’ve tried to help them understand that there is not one direct line and that you can take bits from over here and over there and see what works best for you in your environment.

Jason was a mature learner, and he came into it when he’s thinking about his family and his career. He had a clear goal that he wanted to work on a links course. He found his passion in greenkeeping, but why he picked a links course nine hours away, I’ll never know! But he loves it and he rang me yesterday for a catch up. He told me I had set him on the right path and that made me feel really good, that he appreciated how I’d helped him.

I tried to get James to apply for the awards when he was doing his Level 2 and he kept saying to me ‘I’ll do it’. but really, he didn’t feel ready. That’s fair enough, there’s nothing wrong with that. When he progressed onto his Level 3, he felt ready, and he’s made the right decision.

Jason Norwood, 2019 winner

Where does the passion come from in these guys?

I think it comes from the team around them. You look at this whole industry and the people that come to events like BTME and the one thing that sets them apart is they’ve got a real passion for what they do. Look at what we went through with the pandemic, when people weren’t allowed to go to work, but you had greenkeepers turning up to look after their greens in secret. These people turn up day after day at 6 o’clock in the morning in all weathers to do what they do and that passion just builds throughout the whole team.

What’s the relationship you have with your students?

It’s friendly and open. I try to make sure I’m there to always support them because although I may only see them every six weeks, they can all get in contact. If they are looking for support, then I’m happy to give them it.

Matt Milligan, 2021 winner

How have you seen the learning process evolve over the last 15 years?

I think students get a lot more engaged today. It’s not like it was when I first did my qualifications, when you were given a portfolio and left to your own devices to get that done. There are much stricter timetables to fulfil now and an online portfolio means you have got more direct contact. I used to do an assignment and if it needed some work, I wouldn’t see my tutor again for another six weeks – progress could be quite slow, whereas now it can be instant. Sometimes a learner will send me some work and I’ll give them feedback and they can now resubmit it within a couple of hours.

What makes you consider nominating a student for the awards?

It’s about the passion and enthusiasm to learn. They must also have the confidence in their own abilities that they want to put themselves forwards for.

What do you like about the Toro Student Greenkeeper Awards?

It’s renowned throughout the whole industry. Even just getting to the finals is a big achievement and you’ll see people putting ‘Toro Student Greenkeeper finalist’ on their CVs for years afterwards. It shows they’re in the top echelon of students in the industry.

It can’t be a coincidence that you’ve had three winners in a row, so what is the key to your success?

The one thing I do is make sure they are well prepared. I put them in touch with previous finalists to find out whatever information they can about the process. By talking to each other, they are already planning for what they might face in the interviews.

The employers can become really involved, too. The two lads at Rudding Park did presentations in front of the directors and heads of department in the hotel. That really set them apart, so that when they went and did it at the finals, it was second nature.

Last year, James was a little more worried about it because he’s a quiet lad anyway. The other two had done something special that was quite individual, whereas he went with a straightforward presentation. He said to me, ‘this is what you get with me’, but he still did what he needed to do.

What is it about your teaching that is special?

The honest answer is I have absolutely no idea. I try to push them to think a little bit more. It’s not just about meeting a target; we try to go for the next step and look a little bit higher. If you’re aiming high, even if you don’t quite achieve it, you’re never going to be far away.

Hoes does Myerscough help you achieve this success?

Myerscough always set the highest standards with everything they do. Sometimes it’s about new ways of thinking, but they set that bar high and they’re always looking to be seen as the standard bearers of education.

What are your ambitions for your students?

I want to see them excel in whatever they want to do. I want to see them go on to be course managers and be the next generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean going on to the biggest clubs in the country, but just that wherever they go they are progressing and getting the best out of their abilities.

Being part of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards enables ambitious BIGGA members to meet and compete with the best greenkeeping students in the UK. The finals of the awards will take place this September at Carden Park Golf Resort in Cheshire. Nominations for the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards are open until 31 March 2023. For more information and to submit your nomination here.

Interview conducted by Karl Hansell, head of marketing and communications at BIGGA.