Many moons ago Russell’s career didn’t begin in turf. That didn’t start till some years later. Way back then, his first years were at the South Sydney City Council looking after parks and gardens around Redfern Park and Ovals. Russell was in charge of a crew of gardeners after coming out of his apprenticeship. In the first 10 years from 1975 to 1985 parks and ovals were it for Russell, around the popular home of the Rabbitoh’s.
It was when he was on the council that he started doing the Landscape course at Ryde TAFE but didn’t finish as he asked to complete the Greenkeeping Certificate 3.
Russell didn’t think much of greenkeeping back then but it was another certificate and a day away from work for which he got paid, so off he went for 3 years. This was the start of the 3 year Greenkeeping course at Ryde.
Russell has fond memories of two of his teachers from back then, Frank Dempsey at a very young age and Peter Brown, who in later years he found himself working beside at The Lakes G.C. When Russell looks back at that time, Peter Brown would have to be one of those people he puts down as an influential person in his career. Russell finished Horticulture in 1978 and Greenkeeping in 1981.
It was then that he started having an interest in the turf side of things and he was fortunate that the council had under their control Moore Park G.C. Russell became Assistant Manager of the course in 1985 filling this role with no background in turf but the only person with greenkeeping qualifications on the council. He stayed here for 9 years when the ownership of the course came under Centennial Park Trust a short time after he was there. Russell’s 2IC way back then was Mal Durkin and to his credit he is still there as the manager of the course. The Trust then in a short time decided to remodel the course adding a full time driving range and completely renewing the golf course. It was the start of a fascination with shaping golf holes. He worked with an Architect then by the name of Ken McKay and his brother Ross, an ex-superintendent from Wollongong G.C. The next port of call was just down the road when Peter Brown was in charge of The Lakes G.C. He feels that with the construction he accomplished at Moore Park helped him gain the Assistants position at The Lakes. A week into the new position the club was remodelling all the greens under the watchful eye of Grant, Newton, and Spencer, but this was not the last of working with architects at The Lakes. Once the greens had been finished it was time for the tournaments. The A.N.Z, The Greg Norman Classics, British Qualifying tournament, and last but not least were the Australian Opens.
Everyone of these had a story to go with it. Russell was then fortunate to move to St Michaels G.C. 3 years ago now in his twilight years. Looking back, it is surprising where you could end up in your career. He counts himself fortunate to have worked in the industry where you meet a lot of fine people and some good friends from the industry are made.
One of the reasons Russell has taken on a role in the association is so he can gain knowledge and give something back to people in the golf industry, (it’s never too late) and now is the right time for him to do what he was reluctant to do years ago.