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Oldham College apprentice is a grand award finalist

Michael Russell.

An Oldham College apprentice has secured a coveted finalist spot at the 2021 Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Awards.

Michael Russell, 29, apprentice greenkeeper and ecology manager at Preston Golf Club, is one of six grand finalists to have made it to this stage from a record number of applicants across the UK.

Last year’s awards were postponed due to Covid-19 – which means that Michael has stood out from the crowd of two years’ worth of nominees, across both 2020 and 2021.

Candidates are nominated for the award by their tutors or employers and just 49 had reached the interview stage from this year’s pool of hopefuls.

The Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year award seeks to find the nation’s best up-and-coming greenkeepers – and next week we will discover whether Michael has taken the title.

The grand final is taking place at the five-star Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 6-7.

Michael, who is originally from Liverpool, is delighted to have made it through to the grand final. “It feels great,” he said.

“I recently made a huge career jump by giving up my office job of five years to train as a greenkeeper. It was a risk as I was giving up a job I knew with career progression mapped out in front of me, but I don’t regret it at all.

“There have been so many learning opportunities in the sector and I love working outdoors.”

If he takes the title next week, Michael is most looking forward to developing his greenkeeping knowledge with the prizes on offer.

The winner gets an eight-week, all-expenses-paid scholarship to America (when restrictions allow), including a six-week residential Turf Management course at the University of Massachusetts, a trip to the Golf Industry Show in San Diego, California, and a visit to The Toro Company’s manufacturing facilities.

Michael added: “The opportunity to visit and learn in America would be incredible.

“I actually obtained a degree in Sport Science prior to my office job and I’ve always enjoyed the education and learning side of work.

“It would be great to go to America and bring back some fresh ideas and perspective to teach my colleagues and apply to my work here.”

Michael credits his “brilliant working relationship” with Oldham College tutor Phil Lomas for his success on the Golf Greenkeeping apprenticeship, and says it was a great feeling to learn that Phil had recommended him for this award.

“Michael has been an outstanding student throughout his apprenticeship with Oldham College,” said Phil.

“He has completed well-researched work to a high standard and always displayed a high level of competence.

“Everyone at Oldham College is looking forward to seeing how Michael does and we all wish him the very best of luck for the final!”

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