SPENDING a summer on the fairways sounds like every young man’s dream – and Melrose second row star Ross Ovens is no different.
The fact that he is maintaining the course rather than a steady handicap doesn’t seem to bother the 27-year-old from St Boswells.
Especially when his skills with the shears land him a top job at the oldest national open golf tournament in continental Europe, the Alstom Open de France, played out at Le Golf National near Paris.
A deputy course manager at the Roxburghe Golf Course, Ross was only given three weeks advance warning of his latest stint on the sport’s “big stage”, but even a last-minute passport panic failed to deter the rugby-playing greenkeeper from heading to France in the line of duty.
Taking up the story, Ross told TheSouthern: “This was a fantastic chance to go and ply my trade at the French Open.
“It was brought to me by my boss Grant Frogley, who had attended a meeting of the European Tour ahead of its first stage qualifying school at the Roxburghe in September.
“I immediately took up the offer, only to discover my passport had expired which caused a bit of a panic, a lot of phone calls and a journey to Durham for the day to make this great opportunity possible.”
Ross eventually headed out to France with another two like-minded staff from St Andrews to strengthen the team of 25 green-keeping staff at Le Golf National.
“We arrived on the Sunday night to be met by course manager Gerraud, who explained how he was delighted to have three very experienced greenkeepers to help maintain his course to a high standard during a very intense week,” explained Ross.
“I reported to the green-keeping compound the following day at 5am to receive my task, which was as part of a squad of five males and one female to hand-cut greens.
“This is the premier job of a greenkeeper and I felt very privileged to be selected to do this.”
The three days prior to the tournament were very busy for Ross and the squad as they were behind with the planned work due to the weather and staff levels, and during the tournament itself he had to double-cut six greens prior to play and single-cut each again afterwards, as well as divoting fairways.
“From the Monday to the following Sunday morning, we cut the greens 21 times,” he told us.
“This shows the extent of what goes on when preparing a course to tournament standard, compared to general play when cutting greens once a day at the Roxburghe.
“The main reason for this high volume of cuts are to gain the green speed that the European tour sets, which is really only suitable for professional golfers and not the general golfer.
“With the 2018 Ryder Cup being hosted at Le Golf National it showed me what it takes to showcase the best golf tournament in the world, which in turn showed me that the Roxburghe has the ability to stage a European Tour event.”
Ross began his career 12 years ago after gaining his qualifications at college. A keen golfer himself, and coming from a distinguished line of local golfing legends, he began as an apprentice at the Roxburghe and has worked his way up to his current position of deputy course manager.
During those 12 years he has had the privilege of being involved in many high-profile events which have been held at the Borders course, including the Roxburghe Challenge, an exhibition match featuring Sergio Garcia and Paul Lawrie, the European Scottish Seniors for five years, the Faldo Junior Series, 2008 Amateur Boys Championship and the Scottish Boys Strokeplay Championship.
And Ross is convinced that with some more hard work from himself and the team, the course can build on these past successes.
He added: “Since starting work at the Roxburghe I have worked under three course managers who have helped develop me to this point in my career, but the recent appointment of Grant Frogley, who has no shortage of experience, working at G-West, Gleneagles and the Belfry, and has provided tournament support at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, is going to be a great golf course manger to learn from.
“His wealth of knowledge and experience, plus the work from a dedicated team, has already been proven on the course this summer and it will continue to improve to the next level.
“The fact that it has been selected to hold the European Tour first stage qualifying school, from which players can earn a place competing on the European Tour, is testimony to this and shows we are an excellent calibre of golf course and still a great test of golf with the continued development in golf technology.”