Case Studies

R&A Greenkeeper Scholars; where are they now?

Katie and Tom move on after Myerscough education.

Published:
8th November 2013
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Katie Walls, front row second from left, in a party of Scholars visiting The R&A in 2009  

Since 2004, The R&A has been awarding scholarships as a contribution towards the costs incurred by greenkeeping students at two colleges in the UK; SRUC Elmwood (Fife) and Myerscough (Lancashire).  Since that time, we have supported over 160 students undertaking higher level education (HNC and above).  Approximately 60% of these students are from outside Great Britain & Ireland with 20 different countries represented including China, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Nepal, Slovenia, South Africa and the USA.  R&A Scholars are often the highest achievers on their courses and, to date, The R&A has contributed over £500,000 towards funding their higher education.

R&A Scholars are our ambassadors in the greenkeeping world; we remain in touch with many who have gone on to forge successful careers in the golf industry, helping to spread our message of sustainable course development and management.  Here are the stories of two of our alumni.

Katie Walls
Eleven summers ago Katie was enjoying herself playing a lot of golf but with no plans on what to do next. She spent a week that summer helping the greenkeeping staff at her local golf course and by the end of it she was hooked!  A few weeks later she was a full-time member of the greenstaff and about to start an NVQ Level 2 at Myerscough College.

Katie graduating

The support from The R&A was crucial in allowing me to continue my studies

Katie then enrolled on the online Foundation Degree and after three years she was completing the bridging modules that allowed her to top-up to a BSc Honours Degree in turfgrass science.  Studying something she was so passionate about had fuelled her desire for learning again and she wanted to learn more.

Katie takes up her story: “I was very fortunate that year to gain an R&A Greenkeeping Scholarship to help fund my studies as I was now no longer working as a greenkeeper. The support from The R&A was crucial in allowing me to continue my studies, particularly when completing my dissertation on sustainable golf course management.  On a personal level the decision to go for full-time education was absolutely the right one.  I thrived in the classroom environment and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the experiences of my classmates; many of whom had spent time working at top sporting venues both in this country and abroad.

On becoming a full-time student I had every intention of returning to greenkeeping, however as time went on and I studied more modules and subjects I realised that there were a number of options available to me that were part of the wider turf care industry.  An irrigation specialist, a golf course designer, a college lecturer, working within the construction industry were all possibilities and the route I took was into education as a college lecturer at Myerscough College.”

Katie at work
Katie at work demonstrating green speed measurement

Katie’s role within Myerscough College has developed over the last 7 years. She started as a Level 2 Course Tutor and Lecturer with some teaching at higher education level.

Katie is now an Assistant Head for a range of Level 3 courses including Sportsturf and Course Tutor for the three years of the online Sporsturf Foundation Degree.

Katie also has the opportunity to take part in research activities. In 2010/11 she collaborated with Dr Andy Owen (Lecturer in Sportsturf Agronomy at Myerscough) on initial research into what golfers really want from their golf course and whether their perceptions of the performance of the surfaces on the course corresponded with reality.  This was published in the July 2011 issue of Greenkeeper International.

Katie reflects: “Without a doubt if I hadn't pursued my education within Sportsturf I wouldn't be working where I am today with the opportunities available to me; the ability to spend time working outside, a close link to the sport I love and the added bonus of having a positive influence on the potential career of young men and women.  I owe a big thank you to The R&A for their support and guidance and the opportunities they have provided to me throughout my time as an R&A scholar.”

Tom Jacques
Tom left school at 16 with very little focus on what he wanted out of a career.  He went to Myerscough College, more out of love for cricket and golf rather than a passion for turf, choosing the National Diploma course as it offered the opportunity for two, 6 month work placements in Ireland and Cambridge respectively.  Tom’s theoretical studies gave a good basic understanding of turf management and the placements gave him the opportunity to put those theories into practice on the golf course.

This large network of qualified turf managers is a great source of support and knowledge sharing

After the National Diploma, Tom started on the Foundation Degree course at Myerscough College. This time, his placement took him to work in America through The Ohio Programme. Here, he spent 14 months working on a golf course and 4 months studying at The Ohio State University. After completing the Foundation Degree, Tom opted to go out into the workplace to gain some valuable experience which included working as a researcher at The Ohio State Universities’ turf trial grounds before coming back to finish off his BSc.

Tom applied for, and received, an R&A scholarship for his BSc. During his time at Myerscough the R&A Scholarship Programme helped him to focus completely on his studies without some of the external pressures faced by other students. 

Tom consulted at Greenwich Park for the 2012 Olympics

Tom believes that his R&A Greenkeeping Scholarship has been of immense assistance in helping him move on in the turf industry: “I took the chance to network with and meet other industry professionals who had also been chosen as R&A scholars.  This large network of qualified turf managers is a great source of support and knowledge sharing. Being an R&A Scholar also helped me make some important links with other turf organisations.”

Tom is now an agronomist at the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

The Scholarship network continues to be of benefit.  Everything he has learnt both academically and with practical experience has helped him settle into his role which can be varied; from working on pitch delivery for Euro 2012, The Open preparations and establishing and maintaining a cross country equestrian track through London’s oldest enclosed Royal Park in Greenwich for the London 2012 Olympic Games.