Senior Turf Manager — Matthew Clarke
When the chance of an apprenticeship in Greenkeeping at New Norfolk Golf Club came up, Matthew Clarke took it. 'School wasn't doing much for me then', said Matthew. 'I had completed Year 11. I liked the outdoors, and I wasn't really enjoying my studies. It was a pretty easy decision to make'.
Matthew was fortunate. He had a good boss at the golf club. He taught Matthew a lot more than the bare minimum. 'I learnt about machinery and horticulture, and I liked being outdoors. I really liked the lifestyle, and I even enjoyed the learning'.
So much so, that Matthew topped the year in the TAFE studies associated with his apprenticeship. By the time he was twenty-one, Matthew was happily managing his life as a golf course curator. 'Life was pretty enjoyable. I was lucky though that a family friend pushed me to improve myself. He kept at me to study some more. It meant leaving all that I knew in Tasmania, but it sure has been worth it'.
Responding to his friend's prompting, Matthew enrolled in the Associate Diploma of Sports Turf Management at the Burnley Horticultural College of the University of Melbourne. 'I had good results from my apprenticeship studies, and with RPL (recognition of prior learning) I was able to complete the Diploma in eighteen months.
'I was able to learn about things I'd already been doing … the science of soil chemistry (cationic exchange and fertilisers), identification of plants (I've even started to enjoy the Latin language used to name plant types), and arborculture (tree growing and maintenance).
'I'd had to leave my home and friends and start again in a big city. There were times when I questioned why, but looking back, they were the challenges that prepare you for the future. Doing my course at Burnley involved a lot of self-discovery'.
As the course was about to end, Matthew began to look for a job at a sand-belt golf course in Melbourne. 'I kept my eye out for an opportunity. I started part-time in 1998, and then was offered a full-time position. The first year I was here, the club hosted the Australian Open, with TV, media, crowds, the lot!
'I love my job. I have plenty of responsibility. We have twelve staff, and I'm often organising work teams, say, reshaping a bunker or tree felling. We have to work efficiently and safely, and complete tasks on or below budget. We have to be conscious of our 800 bosses (the club members) and their needs and wishes. And we have to be conscious of the next big phase of the annual work cycle.
'It's challenging, stimulating work. There's a real future in the golf industry. I'm meeting interesting people and can see heaps of opportunities as long as I keep learning. I'd like to be superintendent of a major course one day. And after that, who knows? I'm only 25. It sure is different from the nine holes in New Norfolk!'