Wimbledon’s courts in Canadian hands
By Mike Jiggens
Very impressed. That best sums up my opinion of February’s annual conference of the Western Canada Turfgrass Association in Richmond, B.C. It marked the first time I’ve been to a stand-alone WCTA conference during my tenure with Turf & Rec. All previous conferences I’ve attended were jointly presented with the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association.
My personal highlight was the pair of presentations made by Grant Cantin, head groundsman at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. When I first learned of these presentations – the first of which was a secondary keynote address – I realized that lawn tennis court management was a theme never before examined in the pages of this publication. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that a sport in which I was once an active participant could be played on a grass surface. I had never played on anything but asphalt.
Although I was pumped to listen to these presentations from the guy charged with the courts maintenance at the home of the Wimbledon Championships, I had some concern that I might find myself listening to a chap with a thick Scottish brogue and that I’d find the presentation almost incomprehensible. Imagine my surprise to learn that Cantin was Canadian – a native of Stony Plain, Alta. – and whose accent hasn’t swayed one bit in spite of having lived in England the past 17 years.
The graduate of Olds College was perfectly understandable and presented an informative and entertaining account of what goes on behind the scenes at Wimbledon as well as the day-to-day management of the grounds at this exclusive, nearly century-old club.
Who would have thought the guy in charge of the grounds at England’s most famous tennis facility was a Canadian?
I had the opportunity to eat lunch with Cantin following his first presentation and learned more about what led him to England in the first place. He now has dual citizenship but is torn between remaining in Europe to continue his role as head groundsman at the tennis club or returning to Canada to re-enter the golf industry. Undoubtedly, it’s going to be a tough decision to make, knowing you hold down a prestigious position in one country and yet have family and friends you don’t get to see much on the other side of the Atlantic.
Unfortunately, the deadline for this issue coincided with my return from the west coast, so the story of Cantin and his maintenance of the lawn courts will have to wait until our April/May edition.
Travel arrangements prevented me from taking in the entire conference, but what I was able to get to was most impressive. It was a first-class conference and afforded me the opportunity to actually meet face to face with some people I had previously corresponded with only by email or telephone.
The industry conference season is all but over for another year. As I write this, I am gearing up for the CGSA conference in Banff and look forward to the editorial opportunities it has to offer.
This is to be the final offering of the CGSA conference in its current format. By next year, the association will join forces with the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada and the PGA of Canada for the first Canadian Golf Industry Show. Each group will offer an independent conference, but will share a three-in-one trade show, keynote speaker and delegate reception. It will be similar in nature to the Golf Industry Show held annually in the United States each February.
This year marks only the second Ontario Turfgrass Symposium I have missed since 1995. Its timing coincided with that of the WCTA conference and, having been invited to that one to serve as a speaker, I was unable to be at two places at once. I’m sure the OTS was its usual smash success.