A SUNDERLAND groundsman has hit the opposition for six at a national competition.
Martin Stephenson faced stiff competition from green-fingered experts at some of the country’s biggest football clubs, but has returned to Wearside with a national groundsman award for his work at Ashbrooke Sports Club.
The 25-year-old from Seaham bowled over judges at the Institute of Groundmanship (IOG) Industry Awards with his dedication to tending to the multipurpose pitch.
He was presented with his IOG Most Promising Groundscare Student of the Year Award at a ceremony at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, which was attended by the UK and Europe’s leading groundscare experts.
Martin, who has just graduated from East Durham College studying horticulture, said: “It felt fantastic to win, you feel like all your hard work has paid off.
“We were up against big football clubs who have a lot of money, it was like the Oscars of the groundsman world.
“Hopefully this will put Ashbrooke on the map, it’s such a great facility for the city.”
In looking after the general day-to-day running of the sports field, Martin’s duties include renovating the cricket square, bowling green and football pitch, as well as maintaining two rugby pitches and artificial tennis courts.
On top of that, Martin and the club’s other groundsmen have to ensure the grass gets back up to scratch after major events such as the annual fireworks display and Split Festival.
Martin said: “I think what impressed the judges is the variety of what we do here. People think that being a groundsman is just about cutting the grass.
“But there’s a lot more that goes into it than that.
“It’s about the science of plants, PH levels, soil testing, and much more.” The IOG is the leading membership organisation for everyone involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities.
IOG chief executive Geoff Webb said: “This year’s winners demonstrate the high standards of groundsmanship within the UK.
“To win the award against such stiff competition is testament to the skill and dedication of the teams and individuals who – week in, week out in all weathers – make such a vital contribution to sport.”