Gisborne Bowling club President Rod McCulloch admits they had a few nerves about nominating Jamey Ferris for the Bowls New Zealand Summerset Awards 2020 Greenkeeper of the Year.
Ferris has been an invaluable part of the club for a decade, and McCulloch realised that having him in the spotlight might attract other suitors.
“There is a bit of a risk with all this exposure,” laughs McCulloch. “Some other clubs might want him when they realise how talented he is. But he has assured us he will be staying in the area. We certainly hope so…we think the world of him.”
The nomination of Ferris was accompanied by a string of endorsements and references, which show why he has been ultimately honoured as the 2020 Greenkeeper of the Year.
“He has made a massive contribution – not just at our club – but across the region,” says McCulloch. “He is so passionate about the sport and that shows through in everybody that he does.”
McCulloch says the quality of the turf at Gisborne bowling club is testament to Ferris’s skills, work ethic and desire to constantly learn.
“They are exceptional to play on and it’s always nice to hear comments from others about how wonderful the greens are,” says McCulloch. “For Jamey it’s a 24 hour job – he’s prepared to be there whenever.”
As one example, McCulloch cites an episode in the second week of August, when the club had a midweek event scheduled, despite an unfavourable weather forecast.
“Rain was meant to be coming and many other greenkeepers might have said ‘well, it’s not meant to be’” says McCulloch. “But Jamey is different. He said, ‘I’ll see what I can do’ and he was down here early in the morning, mowing the greens and then he rolled the greens.”
“We played that day and kept going a bit longer even when the rain came. In the end we got an hour and a quarter of bowls in, which was enough to finish. Jamey knew we had paid entry fees and wanted to give us the best possible chance of playing.”
Ferris has been greenkeeper at Gisborne for 10 years. He has consistently achieved a greens rating of 55/60, again during the 2019-2020 season.
As well as his level 1, 2 and 3 green keeping certificates, he also gained the level 3 Sports Turf industry qualification in 2017 and is committed to constant improvement. He often works outside normal working hours, and as McCulloch points out, his mantra is to always strive for a tournament ready green seven days a week.
“No matter who is playing or practising, he wants them to have the best possible experience on the greens,” explains McCulloch.
Ferris has implemented a more organic approach to greenkeeping over the past year, avoiding hazardous substances as much as possible and making use of seaweed fertiliser. As well as being safer for members, there is an added benefit of cost savings.
Ferris is heavily involved within his industry. He has attended every cluster meeting in the Gisborne-East Coast area over the past 10 years and served as president since 2016. Ferris has also attended greenkeepers conferences around the North Island and been proactive in offering advice and assistance to clubs around the region.
His work has resulted in some glowing tributes
“Jamey is the Greenkeeper for the two largest bowling clubs in our district (Gisborne and Kahutia) and his work has resulted in their greens becoming the best in the district,” says Bowls Gisborne East Coast President Steve Goldsbury, who adds that Ferris has had a positive influence on the transformation of the greens at the three country clubs in the area.
Bowls New Zealand life member and former chair of the Eastland Greenkeepers association Martin Christensen describes Ferris as a sponge for information, with an inquiring mind who is always passing on knowledge.
“It’s about application to a vocation that Jamey lives for each day; producing high quality turf playing surfaces along with mentoring other green keepers.”
Former vice president of Bowls New Zealand Robin Jefferson says the sport is lucky to have Ferris. Jefferson, who has also been President of Bowls Gisborne East Coast for the last decade, says Ferris is aware this is not a 9-5 job – “more like 6am to 7:30pm” and is prepared to give his time.
Ferris takes a proactive approach, is always ready to learn and has great people skills.
“He is well respected by those he leads – he has a good manner with them,” says Jefferson. “That is why he is successful. We are fortunate to have a young man giving of his best in the interests of bowls.”
Ferris has also been Greens’ advisor for Bowls Napier for the past two years.
“Jamie takes a keen interest in the ongoing condition of our greens and partly as a result of his advice our greens are playing better than they have for a number of years,” says Malcolm Stockwell, Greens Superintendent for Bowls Napier.
Ferris has attended the Kahutia Bowling club greens for the last seven years, with club President Murray Murton commenting that they have been maintained to “an exceptional level”.
Aside from his technical abilities and capacity to work hard, Ferris also has the common touch.
“He’s a member of the club as well and he gets on very well with people,” says McCulloch, who adds that Ferris is the best singles bowler at the club.
“He’ll take part in roll ups and will encourage junior players. And many times, I’ve seen him go and help a bowler who happens to be there when he has finished work. He’s a pretty special guy.”