The NZGCSA Excellence Award is sponsored by John Deere Australasia. Rob Dunkley was one of three finalists, and the overall winner, who was selected to contest the New Zealand Golf Course Superintendents Association Excellence Award in partnership with John Deere.
The two other finalists were Harewood Golf Club in Christchurch and Arrow Town Golf Club.
This award recognizes a superintendent for achieving excellence in golf course management over the last two years. Improvements that they could make could be things like changed management or maintenance techniques, new innovation or construction.
The recipient of this award receives the John Deere Excellence in Golf Course Management Grant. This grant of $5000 is for developing their knowledge and experience whether it is through further education, work experience overseas or on going training.
The award was started in 1992 and the NZGCSA say that they are "truly indebted to John Deere for their commitment to our industry and this elite award within our industry."
Pitchcare Oceania spoke to Rob Dunkley about his history in the industry and experience with the judging process.
Rob studied a three-year higher national diploma in Golf course management at Reaseheath College in Cheshire UK. He graduated in 2004.
In his second year he applied and successfully gained a place on the Ohio state University internship scheme. There, he worked for a year at the Scioto Country Cub in Ohio under Bob Becker. He says that this was an unrivaled experience and something he will never forget. The Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the finest courses in the U.S. It is a Donald Ross design, dating from 1916 and has hosted numerous championships, including the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship. Many New Zealanders know it as the course where the young Jack Nicklaus honed his skills under the coaching of legendary pro, Jack Grout.
After graduating from his course he worked at the Wilmslow Golf Club in Cheshire, under Steve Oultram, as an assistant greenkeeper.
In February, 2008 he decided to go over to New Zealand and that led to his current position as superintendent at the Ngaruawahia Golf Club.
Since being there, he has made many changes, both managerial and out on the course, all of which have now been recognized by winning this award.
It is not easy over in New Zealand and for those back in the UK he feels there are a lot more pressures in New Zealand, especially from disease etc. However he says he and his team are always working to accomplish the next level, in terms of presentation, playing quality and overall course sustainability. As always, the work is never ending, but passion, vision and a commitment to excellence drive him forward.
"I've been fortunate to work at a range of golf clubs with course budgets ranging from limitless to restricted. Although it can be difficult working with a relatively restricted budget, I am convinced that by the application of correct methods, first-class results can still be achieved. The vital factors are knowledge and passion for the job."
Congratulations to Rob for winning this prestigious award- keep up the great work!