Greenkeeper of the Year Dan Ashelby visits the USA following award win

If you cast your mind back to October last year, you may remember one of our Greenkeepers, Dan Ashelby, was awarded Greenkeeper of the Year Award (if you need a refresh, you can read it here).  The application for the award involves regional interviews, an assessment, a presentation and an examination. As part of Dan’s fantastic achievement, he was awarded a six week scholarship at the University of Massachusetts in the USA earlier this year.  Following Dan’s visit, we caught up with him to find out more about his trip…

The award for winning Toro Student Greenkeeper of the year is comprised of three parts. The first part being a six week scholarship at the Winter Turf School for Turf Managers, held annually at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This course condenses a full time 2 year course into an intense short term course, covering a range of subjects, including entomology, pathology and soil science. Each subject is taught by a specialist in their field, including PHD doctors and USGA agronomists. Work is scheduled over a standard school week and you are regularly tested with essays and tests. During the weekends, there is plenty of time to relax and experience American culture. At the end of the course, grades are submitted and each tutor selects the top percentage of students to receive high honours in their subject. Upon graduating, I achieved high honours in each class and was one of only two students to accomplish this on the course.

For the second part of the award, I was given the opportunity to visit the Golf Industry Show, held annually at various locations across America. This year I was very lucky to experience the show in San Diego, California. The show itself has to be seen to be believed.  All manufacturers of turf equipment and suppliers descend on San Diego convention centre. The latest innovations in technology are unveiled and high profile speakers from the industry host talks and seminars. It is very exciting to see what products will soon be able to help greenkeepers be able to maintain their courses to higher standards. During the evening, the British greenkeepers in attendance met up and experienced the nightlife culture of California. We visited the old gaslight district and sampled the bars and food, listening to live music and meeting greenkeepers from around the world and on the last night a few of us walked down to the harbour and spent the night in the bar where Top Gun was filmed and sat at the famous piano. The food was also a great experience; California has wonderful sushi restaurants and big American steaks. It really is a great place to visit and the weather was pleasant and warm.

For the final part of the journey, I travelled to the complete opposite climate in Minnesota. Right on the northern border of America, Minnesota is a beautiful snowy landscape and is the Headquarters location of the scholarships sponsor Toro. I was taken on a tour of their impressive facilities. I visited the engineering factories where the machines are made from the ground up, painted in huge dipping vats and assembled on hi-tech production lines. Seeing the engineers at work really gives a good understanding of the quality of product you are receiving. I also visited the main headquarters where rigorous performance and safety testing is completed in a state of the art research centre, to ensure the machinery performs to a high standard.

The whole journey was extremely informative and beneficial to the progression of my career and knowledge. The whole experience was very positive. The outstanding point of my tour was receiving my certificate of completion. The university put on a final graduation ceremony for us, with a meal and speech of congratulation, before each being awarded our certificate. As stated, I was one of two to receive High Honours in all subjects. This was the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort and has really motivated me for the good season ahead.

And to top it off, Dan has been selected for the R&A Scholarship, which is a select programme for greenkeeping professionals. Well done, Dan!