Toro Award Winner Reports Back on Once-In-A-Lifetime Trip

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Proud winner of the 2019 Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award, Jason Norwood of Rudding Park Golf Club in Harrogate, reports back on his once-in-a-lifetime trip to America. 

Every year we hear how the prize exceeds all expectations for the lucky winner and this year is no different. The seven-week scholarship at the University of Massachusetts in the USA, a trip to the GCSAA’s Golf Industry Show in Orlando and visiting Toro’s headquarters and R&D centre in Minneapolis will, says Jason, help him achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a head greenkeeper.

Jason says: “Now that I’ve had a bit of time to get back into the swing of things with family life and work, I have had time to reflect on what was an incredible experience in America. 

“My time at UMass was very intensive and incredibly rewarding. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how much work you need to put into studying but it was worth the effort. I learnt an awful lot of new things and look forward to practising and utilising what I have been taught for the rest of my greenkeeping career. Since being back in the UK I have been to a couple of BIGGA events and the content now makes a lot more sense to me than it did before.”

Visiting the Golf Industry Show (GIS) gave Jason not only the chance to experience one of the largest educational conferences in the turfgrass management industry, but also catch up with Richard Hollingworth, his head greenkeeper, who nominated him for the award and as a result of Jason winning received an all-expenses-paid trip to GIS in Orlando.

Jason says: “I have never had the experience of being treated like a VIP, but that is exactly how I felt whilst I was in Orlando. It was an incredible time, experiencing things I never thought I would and making some great contacts within the greenkeeping industry. Richard got a great deal from the show too. You could see it in his passion and enthusiasm.”

The VIP treatment wasn’t limited to GIS though, it extended to the Toro factory trips too: “I took away a lot from the trip to the sites in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Again, I was made to feel like a VIP with my hosts. I spent most of my time with Kyle Kriewall who is unquestionably a bright star in the future of Toro.”

Invaluable networking opportunities with industry peers and award judges is a renowned benefit to entering the awards and spending time in particular with Reesink’s managing director David Cole at the show provided Jason with some advice on finding a work-life balance.

Jason says: “I really appreciated that chat I had with David about the values of family life. I see myself as very family orientated and to get some advice about how being away for long periods of time can impact the family really helped. His tips on ways to deal with that were very helpful and I appreciated his words of wisdom.” 

As we all know many of the Award winners have gone on to great things, with half the winners holding course manager or head greenkeeper positions. And Jason can see why, holding a similar ambition for himself. 

He says: “I am really looking forward to making the most of this incredible experience and, one day, achieving my ultimate goal of becoming a head greenkeeper, and being a Toro Student Greenkeeper winner that Reesink can be proud of. I know the award will play a huge part in helping me realise that ambition and I will always be indebted to Reesink for the opportunity that was provided.

“Once again thank you so much for the experience, it is something I will always remember and can look back on with great fondness. The fact this opportunity exists for aspiring young greenkeepers is incredible and whoever is lucky enough to win the next award will again have an amazing experience.”