Hexham's reputation as a thinking man’s golf club – their intelligent approach to beginners taking their first steps on a full course has been well documented by The Journal – has been enhanced by their greenkeeping department.
David Thompson has been awarded a scholarship by the R and A and if you think this is to encourage a talented student in need of expert guidance then you could not be more wrong.
Thompson is the 33-year-year old assistant to course manager Malcolm Lathan, a former European Tour player who represented England Boys in the same team as Nick Faldo in 1974.
Having started out at Tyneside at the age of 16, Thompson is approaching the end of his fourth year at Hexham following eight years at Matfen Hall.
The aim of the scholarship programme is to increase awareness of greenkeeping as a career and help The R and A maintain a sustainability message to successive generations – conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
An invitation-only website gives each scholar the opportunity to network with other R and A scholars where they are encouraged to contribute to discussion forums. Scholars are taken behind the scenes on a look-and-learn day at St Andrews.
The R and A are also helping Thompson fund part of the £6,600 he is spending on a three-year sports turf foundation degree on-line with Myerscough College in Preston.
A former pupil at Ryton Comprehensive, he is a 12-handicap golfer and an ex-iron man standard amateur triathlete who lives in Prudhoe.
Arming himself with extra knowledge as he approaches the peak years of his career, Thompson said: “Some people confuse greenkeeping with gardening.
“However, it is much more scientific than is widely realised.
“We want to see firm, fast and healthy golf courses, with emphasis being placed on good drainage, viable water supplies and correct grass selection.
“For example, if a course is in an area susceptible to drought, we need to use tolerant grass species rather than ones that require regular watering to survive.
“It is simple and logical. Year-round playing performance will be improved, maintenance bills will be reduced and the course will be healthier overall.
“For the game to thrive, there needs to be a sea-change in opinion away from seeing lush, green courses as being wholly desirable.”
JJ VALLELY, who coaches at Matfen Hall, has also started winter evening sessions at a new purpose-built indoor facility on Brunswick Industrial Estate near Kingston Park.
For more information, visit www.dynamicindoorgolf.com and to contact Vallely ring 07899 090 777.