FORMER Wales Golf academy player Rhian Barton is looking to build on winning a national greenkeeping award, with her unique background combining that with being a professional player and club pro.
The 22-year-old from Wrexham won the Toro Young Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award, with the final stage and presentation at Celtic Manor, in a big switch from reading greens as a player to looking after them as a greenkeeper.
Having taken up greenkeeping at the start of the Covid pandemic to give her more time to practice to try and qualify for the Ladies European Tour, and complete her PGA Club Professional qualifications, she has now taken it up full-time.
She also recommends greenkeeping as a profession for girls and women to take up, saying, “I can do everything the men can do, and just as well, but not many girls think of it as a profession they can go into.”
While not giving up on her playing ambitions, the award from greenkeeping national association BIGGA has given Barton a big push in the course management direction.
“It feels really good to have won this award, it caps off a really good year for me,” she explained.
“I have volunteered at three big golf tournaments, started part-time on the match day groundstaff at Wembley and got a new job as assistant greenkeeper at The Wisley golf club in Surrey.
“I started greenkeeping because it gave me more time to play and practice than being a club professional and I would still like to get back into playing more competitive golf.
“But greenkeeping is my main priority now because I enjoy it so much. I want to make my way and become a head greenkeeper, but I also want to be involved in tournament golf.
“My ultimate ambition would be to become an agronomist on one of the golf tours as that would combine greenkeeping with professional golf.”
Barton got into the Wales Golf North Academy at 14, her biggest achievements being the Welsh girl representative at the Under 16’s Junior British Open and also representing Wales at the European Young Masters in 2015.
She took her PGA club pro qualifications at Carden Park, getting her final qualifications this year, while playing with limited success on the LET Access Tour.
“I was chatting to one of the greenkeepers at Carden Park when I was assistant pro there, they finished early so I thought I could practice more,” said Barton.
“I was doing long hours in the shop so I could not play as much as I wanted to. I did not have a great year on the LET Access Tour and that is expensive and hard to fund, then there was an enforced break because of Covid.
“I started working more on the golf course, really enjoyed it and thought that might be the route for me.
“Greenkeeping is seen as male-dominated, but that has never been a problem for me. At all my clubs I was the only girl, then the same with North Wales squad at my age, so it did not faze me to go into a male-dominated area.
“I do not see why other women do not do it, I think part of the problem is the level of recognition that this job is out there for them.”
The BIGGA Award was a lengthy process, starting with a written exam and culminating with practical tests around the Celtic Manor 2010 course.
Barton is now committed to greenkeeping, so the PGA professional route may be kept in the background for now.