Welsh Golf Club Managers were a cause for celebration at the Golf Cluub Managers Association (GCMA) annual awards night, four out of the six main awards going to Welsh representatives.
“It was a remarkable return at the national awards ceremony, it showed how much good work there is going on around Wales and made you proud to be a part of it,” said Wales Golf Director of Development Zoe Thacker.
In particular it was a great night for Gwent golf with Newport’s Warren Ryan receiving the Manager of the Year Award, and Llanwern’s Luke Bearcroft the Newcomer of the Year Award at the age of just 20.Former Newport, Royal Porthcawl, Whitchurch and Llanishen manager John Dinsdale received the Outstanding Contribution Award, while there was recognition for North Wales with GCMA president JR Jones, Conwy Golf Club, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ryan, aged 31, was delighted to be recognised for his work in South Wales after moving from Ireland and having also worked in the Middle East.
He joined Newport three years ago, from Castleknock Golf Club in Dublin, after a career of working in various areas of the golf industry, including manufacturer Callaway, before settling on club management.
“The awards night was certainly a good showcase for the region and it was a massive honour to win the Manager of the Year Award to show Newport Golf Club is recognised as a well respected club in the region,” he said.
“It shows to the membership and people outside the club that we are doing a good thing, and from a personal perspective to be up against every other golf club manager in the UK and to be considered a worthy winner is quite something.
“It was a rigorous process to get to that point, so to be recognised by the governing body of club managers, so to speak, is a privilege and the biggest honour of my career.
“We have put together a good team at Newport, there has been some change in the last few years and the team has been very proactive.
“We have brought the catering in house and also worked on the aesthetics and accessibility of the course, plus we were one of the first clubs in Wales to go through governance changes with a Board of Directors coming in.
“It means we have become a go-to club for advice on governance in Wales, Scotland and England, to help any other club that embarks on that journey.
“The Board of Directors have brought focus and strategy for the long term benefit of the club.”The award for Llanwern’s Bearcroft is a remarkable tale after coming through as a junior player at the club, working in the bar, moving into the office and then taking over as manager.
He was unable to be at the awards ceremony because he is on a GCMA supported Diploma course, gaining the next level of qualifications as a golf club manager.
“I was quite shocked really, I was at dinner when my phone blew up with all the messages of congratulations,” he said.
“We have been working very hard behind the scenes with the Board of Directors at Llanwern to implement some beneficial things, so for that to be noticed is a great feeling and shows we are going in the right direction.
“I have been a member of Llanwern for nine years, I played my junior golf there, so I have come to it from the inside, but as a member you do not know just how much goes on behind the scenes.
“I have been trusted with quite a big role at a young age, I have got plenty of years left at Llanwern and want to keep improving the club, making the membership experience very special.
“I am also working towards my Club Management Association of Europe Diploma and would aim to become the youngest person in the UK to achieve that, maybe the youngest in Europe.”
At the other end of the age scale, Dinsdale was rewarded for his service to a few of the top clubs in South Wales.
“I was a bit surprised, a bit proud and a bit embarrassed,” he said. “For my club Newport to be recognised through the Manager of the Year Award as well makes it quite a nice double.
“The main highlight over my career is just how much I have enjoyed it, first at Newport then I had an unbelievable experience at Royal Porthcawl where we hosted international amateur and professional events.
“It was nice on the night to be congratulated by other club managers and it was a tremendous night for Welsh golf.”
JR Jones was a deserved recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award as someone who has served as both chairman and president of the GCMA, while also acting as a member of The R&A and being one of the most respected international referees.
“It was a good night for the reputation of Welsh golf, winning a Tsunami of awards,” said the 79-year-old, who is still a good enough player to have beaten his age recently.
“I have been with the GCMA for 15 years after joining as The R&A representative, but it still came as a complete surprise. It is strange to get an award for something you enjoy doing.
“The thing about people who give their time for nothing is that they enjoy it, being chairman and then president of the GCMA is a privilege really as well as having a great time.
“There is a lot to do, around 500 businesses with all their members, managing a lot of change in human resources and legislation. I really do admire the GCMA and the way they handle all that.
“I have never been a golf club manager so I come to it all with an independent viewpoint, a useful sounding board for people to test things out.”