If Steve Burchett was an AFL coach, you’d say he was “building for the future”.

To carry the footy analogy one step further, any post-draft media analysis would say Burchett had swept the recruiting pool.

Along with third-year apprentice Matt Fromholtz, Portarlington GC superintendent Burchett has turned to the youth in assembling his new-look groundstaff.

“We’re really excited to welcome home Sam Beeston, who did his apprenticeship here a few years ago and has returned to join us in a fully qualified capacity,” Burchett said.

“And Luke Lawrence joins us a full-time apprentice having been here one day a week doing his (vocational) studies with SEDA in Geelong.

“It’s great to have those guys and Matt here give us fresh eyes on the place and we really look forward to helping them all develop.”

Chief executive officer Michael Phillips said the appointments were made in line with the club’s strategic policy position of expanding the course maintenance department to provide the best possible facilities for members and guests.

The young men, though, are just excited for the opportunity.

Beeston, now 26 and a keen golfer, grew up over the road from the club and is stoked to work a couple of fairway woods from his family home.

“I’ve been playing golf here since I was eight or nine and always loved coming over and being on the course, so when the opportunity came up to be a greenskeeper, I jumped at it,” Beeston said.

“During Year 11, I did work experience here with Steve and `Larry’ (Anthony Donohue) and then a couple of years later a job came up and I jumped back into it.

“I finished my apprenticeship about three years ago and then went across to Canada and worked on a couple of courses over there, mostly at Kananaskis in the Rockies. It’s certainly a different outlook here, a little flatter maybe!” he said with a giggle.

“We have it very lucky here, playing for 12 months a year. Over there it’s 4-6 months and then we pretty much put the course into hibernation.

“Winter prep is a big one over there. Before the snow hits, you’ve got to put out your fertilisers, your chemicals, your tarps down on the greens to protect them and make sure it’s all aerated so it doesn’t freeze up and damage it for next season.

“Generally a lot different to here.”

But Beeston is excited to be home and plans a big future at the club.

“Living so close makes it easier to do that, but I know the whole course pretty much and I know the standard that Steve sets and I’m happy to be here for a while.”

Fromholtz is well advanced in his four-year sport turf management apprenticeship through the Gordon and G-Force.

And he’s also loving the choice he made, to the point of wanting to try something similar to Beetson when he graduates.

“I just love working outside - cutting grass, spraying and all that stuff is pretty fun out in the sun, and it’s a great crew to work with,” Fromholtz said.

“Once I finish this qualification, it grants me the ability to work pretty much anywhere in the world. My uncle, who’s in the same line of work, has been on golf courses in the United States, and coming from Curlewis to the US is somewhere I’d like to go. I’d be open to working full-time at a course or on specific tournaments.”

Fromholtz hadn’t had much to do with golf before he began at Portarlington – and he’s also had his eyes open to the secrets of greenskeeping.

“It’s amazing just how `sciencey’ looking after turf gets. A lot of nutrients and chemistry that goes into soil. For years, I thought it was just grass on a bunch of dirt, but in reality, on a bunch of different size particles like clay, they all have different characteristics and impacts on how the turf grows,” said Fromholtz, sure to be pleasing his mentors.

“Things like salinity levels and pH levels all impact how your turf grows. There’s a lot more planning than I ever realised.”

Lawrence, similarly, doesn’t have much more than a social golfing background, instead learning his appreciation of turf management as a bowler at Queenscliff where he is good enough to play Premier League pennant aged 19 in just his fourth year in the sport.

But after doing a Monday at Portarlington GC most weeks for two years as part of his studies, he also leapt at the chance to go full-time.

“I’m only in my fourth week, but I’m loving it – it’s a relaxed environment, there’s a new challenge every day and there’s always something to do, which I like,” Lawrence said.

“I’ve learnt plenty already, more on the technical side of turf maintenance, the different cuts of grass, the different machinery to achieve different goals.”

Lawrence said he intended to use his time as an apprentice to learn more about golf, but that his passion for now lay with the rinks of his beloved bowls.

“Right now I am thinking maybe to get a job at a bowls club in the future … that’s where I got my interest in turf and I always wanted to find a job at a place that I have a lot of knowledge about.”

Lawrence, who has aspirations of playing bowls for Victoria, joined Fromholtz in suggesting changes to the par-3 17th hole as things they’d like to do if Burchett gave them the keys for the day.

“I hear a lot of golfers here talk about that 17th, so I might move the dam to the left so they have an easier shot to the green,” Lawrence said, obviously eager to appease the membership.

Fromholtz’s plan was a little less radical, but still a tall order.

“I would love to make the 17th all bent grass, all creeping bent grass the same as the green and surrounds all the way off the tee – it would look really good from the tee view. I’ll work up the courage to suggest it to Steve!”

Beeston’s potential change was less immediately specific, but a huge undertaking if he ever had the chance.

“Longer term, I’d probably re-design the first tee box, because we had to move it forward because of the building (clubhouse extension), so there’s a bit of work to be done there to re-design it to make it a better hole,” Beeston said.

“I really like the architecture side of golf and one day maybe I’ll sort of get into that and explore the options.”

But for now, he has more manageable goals that will bring a smile to the face of every member.

“For me it’s about the presentation of the course.

“The different types of grass on the greens and fairways, it just looks really nice when it’s all done up for the golfers and they seem to appreciate it.”

We told you coach Burchett had kicked a few goals!

Grounded trio kicking goals
Luke Lawrence, left, Sam Beeston and Matt Fromholtz are already kicking goals for the Portarlington GC course maintenance crew.