In their own words: BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu September 19, 2017 11:47

The chief executive of the British and International Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) talks exclusively to The Golf Business about the role greenkeepers play at major tournaments

Summer is pretty much over in the UK and, while climatically it was nothing to write home about, it was a memorable one for golf. Alex Noren kicked things off with an extraordinary final round to win the European Tour’s big one, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and we recently had a veritable links odyssey with top events in quick succession at Portstewart, Dundonald (twice), Royal Birkdale, Kingsbarns and Royal Porthcawl.

As we tiptoe towards autumn we will see the north-eastern gem, Close House, make its debut on the big stage and then finish with the annual visit to St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie for the Dunhill Links Championship.

For many, the standout moment of the golfing summer was Jordan Spieth’s unscheduled practice ground visit at Royal Birkdale and the ensuing outrageous five under par, five-hole spell that won him golf’s greatest prize.

For me though, it was a couple of hours later when Chris Whittle, the course manager of the world class Southport links, and his dedicated team of greenkeepers, along with the 50-strong BIGGA volunteer support team, were cheerfully mingling behind the 18th green in front of largely empty stands, while Spieth worked his way through the interminable media commitments that come hand in hand with a major victory.

The impressive young American had been unequivocal in his praise for the course, but after the fifth Open Championship in his stellar career, Chris was just as unassuming as he has been for nearly 50 years in the trade. He took all the well-deserved plaudits with his usual equanimity and deflected the praise onto his hard-working colleagues.

The Open is unique among major tournaments in that the course manager is present during the presentation ceremony and the greenkeepers provide the guard of honour for the victorious competitors. This is extremely high profile by our standards. Normally the role is like that of a football referee – do your job, go unnoticed and, if possible, have no explicit effect on the game.

I’m delighted to say that all year, not just at Royal Birkdale but time after time in events big and small, greenkeepers do astounding work to present their golf courses in superb condition. All against a backdrop of more extreme weather (you won’t find a climate change denier in the greenkeeping fraternity), a continual reduction in the weed, pest and disease control measures available, reduced resources – water, staff, money and so on – and an ever-increasing focus on environmental and business sustainability.

Golf courses are the reason the golf business exists and I’ve never been more proud of how professionally and passionately our courses are managed. I sincerely hope the nation’s golfers are as effusive in their praise for the hard work that goes on behind the scenes as Jordan Spieth was on the 18th green at Royal Birkdale.

To find out more about the work BIGGA provides, visit www.bigga.org.uk

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu September 19, 2017 11:47
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1 Comment

  1. Andy September 22, 06:56

    Totally agree Jim. Green keepers are under appreciated. Wouldn’t it be great if a new tradition of every golfer showing their appreciation to the green keeping staff as they come off the 18th green….just like Jordan Speith did at Birkdale.

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