A new award that recognises excellence amongst Sports Turf Management graduates has been given to Central Coast local, Austyn Layton, who achieved his Certificate III in Sports Turf Management from TAFE NSW Kurri Kurri.
The NSW Golf Course Superintendents Association’s (NSWGCSA) annual Vince Church Graduate of the Year Award recognises recent graduates who show the potential to play a major role in the development and direction of golf course maintenance in Australia.
NSWGCSA President, Leon Hennessy, said the Association created an Encouragement Award to give special recognition to Austyn.
“Austyn impressed the judging panel with his passion and dedication,” he said. “The Association has never given a secondary award for the Vince Church Graduate of the Year, but we all felt that he deserved encouragement and recognition.”
TAFE NSW is delivering a pipeline of workers to meet the growing demand for skilled sports turf managers in Australia, with all the 2023 nominees and winners having graduated TAFE NSW courses in the past 12 months.
One of Austyn’s teachers, TAFE NSW Kurri Kurri’s Greg Smith, who has 43 years’ experience, said the industry needs graduates who are dedicated and passionate.
“People with years of experience and expertise are retiring, or moving on,” said Smith. “This award is recognition of Austyn’s hard work and shows he has what it takes to go far in our industry.”
Austyn, 22, who has worked as a greenkeeper at Wyong Golf Club for nearly six years, said he only started to appreciate the science of turf management through his studies at TAFE NSW.
“When you’re at work you learn hands-on, but TAFE NSW teaches you the science behind what you’re doing,” he said. “My role is a lot more than mowing fairways – you need a real eye for detail, but also understanding how particular plants grow and constantly problem-solving,” Austyn said.
“I was a bit reluctant when I first got the job at Wyong Golf Club, but I fell in love when the art and science started coming together. Plus, my teachers were all great and I met heaps of new friends through TAFE NSW.
“I feel so honoured to have been the first person to receive this award. It goes to show that hard work pays off and I’m glad that has been recognised.”
With his qualification and now recognition from the industry, Austyn is already excited about his next career step.
“I’m always thinking about where I want to be and one day I’d like to become a superintendent, maybe in Sydney. With the mindset I have I think I can get there,” he said.
With over 450 golf courses in NSW, a well-managed golf course can provide many environmental benefits such as stripping urban stormwater of contaminants and providing native wildlife corridors in congested urban environments.
Wyong Golf Club Superintendent and Austyn’s manager, Kent Smith, said finding passionate future superintendents is more important than ever.
“Maintaining courses, especially in regional NSW, is constant problem-solving – the weather is your worst enemy. People with the right skills are important, but graduates like Austyn with that passion for the job are the ones who will go far.”
Past recipients of this award have gone on to senior roles at some of Australia’s top golf courses and premier sports venues, including TAFE NSW Ryde graduate Shaun Bowden, who is now Superintendent at the Royal Hobart Gold Club.
Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, email@example.com, 02 7921 3756.