October 24th, 2016

It’s a turf job but the Leamington team stay level-headed

Updated: 7:55 am, Aug 10, 2015

FROM Wembley to Wimbledon – top sportsmen and women demand the very best playing surface.

And so will the some 2,000 competitors who take to the bowling greens at Victoria Park in Leamington as they host both the women’s and men’s national championships back to back this month.

For the past six years groundsman Mike Finch has been responsible for ensuring the five greens maintained by Warwick District Council are up to standard throughout the month of competition.

Mike’s and his three strong team – which also includes Tim Rouse, Rob Peel and Andrew Bradshaw – have spent the past two months ensuring the greens were ready for the start of play on Saturday (August 1).

And during the next month they will spend up to 60 hours a week ensuring they remain in tip-top condition – which is no easy task.

During play the team are unable to work on the greens, and mowing and rolling is best done either at the start or end of the day, and can take an hour and a half for each green.

Having previously worked as a groundskeeper for Coventry City Football Club for 20 years, Mike is no stranger to working under pressure, having maintained the pitches at both Highfield Road and the Ricoh Arena.

Mike told The Observer: “We start at 5.30am in the morning but we can’t start mowing until 7am. Then, we only have two hours to get all five greens ready for the day. It’s hard work.

“You have got to be passionate and want to do it, which is why we put in as much effort as we do.”

While players in certain sports do not always show the greatest respect for the efforts groundskeepers put into preparing pitches and courts, bowlers are quite the opposite.

Mike explained: “There is an etiquette in bowls that the competitors are very good at following.

“It is in their interest for the green to be in good condition so they don’t throw in a way that cause dents or bulges in the turf when they are playing.”

Mike says his job is a labour of love, and despite doing an excellent job, he is always striving for that little bit more.

“You ask a greenkeeper if he’s ever happy and he should say ‘no’,” added Mike.

“And that’s good because a greenkeeper that is happy has settled and isn’t striving to be the best. There is always room for improvement, there’s always something else that can be done.”

There will be winners and losers over the next month, but the hard work of Mike and his team will have ensured a level, and perfect, playing field for all.