06 Jul Mark Fry – New Course Manager
If I may, I would like to give you a quick introduction about myself .
After nearly 20 years of being away and I have been fortunate to have travelled to different parts of the world. However, nothing beats home and I’m glad to be back. During my time away, my partner Michele has taken this journey with me and after some time together we now have a 4-year-old son called Brodie (who keeps us on our toes). We are both pleased now to be back in Devon and planned to stay here for the foreseeable future, especially now as Brodie will be starting school (my old school) in September.
I am very pleased to have accepted my new position here at Teignmouth Golf Club as your Course Manager. It’s a real heartfelt story, as during my youth, I was a junior member here alongside with my grandparents, and I can honestly say, I loved playing up here. I made some great memories playing the course, with some great players which are still members today. Hopefully I’ll get to see and play some golf with you all (my golf wasn’t great then, and I have to say, it has not improved). However, I am looking forward to making more new memories.
I do have some ideas to help improve the course, both visually and playability wise. Which, I hope will make this golf course the one that all visitors and members do talk about in Devon. Mind you, everyone is already talking about the amazing view that Teignmouth’s has.
Like I mentioned, I started playing golf at Teignmouth GC at around the age of 12-13 years old. I quickly realised I wanted to stay within the golf industry for a career. Once I passed my driving test, I managed to get an apprenticeship at Woodbury Park GC and stayed there for 12 years. I watched this course grow into a fantastic course, and eventually they were having big tournament events which grew into a profitable business.
I then was given an opportunity sponsored by Toro to go to America. Where I studied ‘Soil Science’ at the University of Minnesota and was an intern at ‘Midland Hill GC’ and at ‘Baltusrol GC’. Baltusrol GC, which had many televised tournaments, the US Open and the PGA Championship. I was fortunate to go back in 2016 to support the PGA Championship. These experiences which I will hold onto forever and will never forget. Very much hard work but very rewarding and exciting as well.
When I came back to England, I worked for Queenwood GC in Surrey. This is where I started to fall in love and learn a lot about Heathland golf courses. Queenwood is still to this day, continuously improving and developing their heather areas. It is important to never neglect this as it can quickly disappear, and it could end up as parkland course. Something which happened in my previous golf club (Whittington) which I’ll explain later.
From Queenwood, I went to Dulwich and Sydenham GC for a managerial role and quickly learned about management. This was a parkland golf course but built on London clay. Over the years we did a woodland programme which allowed more breathing spaces for wayward golfers. Completed a new bunkers renovation programme and added extended tees. After 5 years there, and being a Devon boy, we disliked the busy and manic lifestyle that London had. For me, I was lucky enough to hide out on the golf course in the middle of the built-up area, whereas my partner Michele had to commute every day in the madness.
I then was head-hunted for Worplesdon GC as a Deputy Head Greenkeeper and due to my construction experience, they wanted me to build a brand-new putting green. I took on this project and along with some others, new tees and bunkers, and maintaining the golf course. We also did a heather regeneration programme by removing trees and scraping areas to enhance the heather population.
From Worplesdon, I went to Whittington Heath GC as their new Course Manager. As part of my job, I had to oversee a grow-in of 6 new heathland holes (including 10 hectare of heathland regeneration programme which was previously farmland), a whole course new bunkers renovation programme, brand-new irrigation system and a woodland programme. The golf course 50 years ago was a true heathland course, however due to some neglection, the trees were allowed to develop, and totally suffocated the heather. The club had a choice to make, either leave it as a parkland course or turn it back to a heathland course. Luckily the members chose to turn it back to the original Harry Colt heathland design, so we started our programme by removing tonnes and tonnes of trees with their roots, and some gorse which was in line of play. We seeded some areas with heather (very expensive) and applied heather brashing in other areas. This has only recently been done so it could take up to a couple of years before we see some heather regenerate, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Now, moving back to Devon, I’m happy and ready to use my experience to make some different and new memories for Teignmouth GC.