IT is not often that a groundsman is recognised as one of sports game changers, but in a current series in The Times, the name of Eddie Seaward sits alongside the likes of Kevin Pieterson (first switch-hit in a Test Match) and Dick Fosby (originator of the Fosbury Flop high jump technique).
In 2001, and after more than 5 years of perceptively changing the grass seed mix at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), Eddie and his team moved from using a 70% perennial rye grass and 30% red fescue to using a 100% rye grass mix of AberElf and AberImp.
The move was prompted by a change of wear patterns on the court as a serve and volley game was replaced by more baseline rallies, creating increased wear near the service line. Eddie told TurfPro (June 2001) “The game is changing, and we should never forget that we are producing a playing surface rather than simply growing grass”
During the 1990s when Pete Sampras was at his peak winning six titles with his booming serve, the difference between the speed of the grass surface at Wimbledon and the slow clay of the French Open was chalk and cheese. Many players could not adapt and opted not play in both tournaments.
Whether his new choice of grass was influenced from the top level, it was not clear at the time, but the effect was noticeable straightaway. Tim Henman said in 2002 “In the changeover during a match I became completely frustrated at the new slowness of the court”.
Eddie was however fortunate in that a new breed of players was coming through to exploit the slower surface with a greater degree of fitness and skills. The battles that followed between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray upped the entertainment value by several notches – and the game increased in popularity.
Such was the media interest in Eddie’s new grass mix that the Guardian newspaper featured AberElf as its ‘top seed’ in its preview of the Championships in 2001!
It was a moment of inspiration that changed the evolution of sport says The Times. Read the feature here.
Many in the turfcare industry owe much to the late Eddie Seaward. His legacy lives on throughout sport, and for a leading newspaper to recognise him as major game changer is a tribute to Eddie himself and the industry as a whole
In 2001, the UK was in the grip of an epidemic. Foot and mouth paralysed many rural communities between February and September and had a serious impact on agriculture, tourism and sport. In Scotland, a number of golf courses closed where they adjoined farmland. Wales was badly hit with clubs such as Knighton, Cradoc, Brecon and Builth Wells closing for several weeks. In Hampshire, the New Forest Golf Cub closed from February until mid-May and turfcare machinery manufacturers and dealers suffered significantly from a sharp drop off in business.
The first ever Turfcare conference was staged at the Gleneagles Hotel. The three day conference was the brainchild of Jimmy Kidd, (left) director of turfgrass management at Gleneagles and was designed to address issues and practicalities for those wishing to build a new course and improve an existing facilities.
On August 11 2001, over 25,000 people packed into the newly constructed St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton were the Saints were to play their first game, a test fixture against Spanish side Espanyol. It meant that head groundsman Dave Roberts swapping the homely and cramped atmosphere of the Dell which had been its home since 1898 for the wide for a stylish new stadium. The build-up had not been plain sailing. The winter of 2000/2001 had been one of the wettest on record, but construction remained on course, taking just 14 months from the day the bulldozers moved on-site to the opening game at St Marys.
2001 IN BRIEF
AFT Trenchers was the subject of a management buy-out from founders Bruce and Rodney Fulford
A new National Code of Practice for operator training was launched at SALTEX by Andy Stewart, chair of the LANTRA trust
Ransomes appointed Brodericks Grass Machinery, based in Dun Loaghaire, to cover the whole of Ireland replacing J E Coulter of Belfast.
IOG Scotsturf attracted over 2500 visitors and 130 exhibitors to its expanded show in Edinburgh.
Pitchcare.com was launched as the brainchild of former Wolves groundsman Dave Saltman.
BIGGA announced that it was to launch The Golf Club Show to run alongside BTME at Harrogate.
In the US, John Deere acquired the Great Dane line of products from Dane Scag
MEN AND MOWERS
Publicity departments of turfcare companies, rarely missed on opportunity to provide the media with pictures of their products being sold into iconic sporting clubs (see Toro above). Below depicts the delivery of another Toro sale, this time to Manchester United. Steve Halley of Cheshire Turf Machinery is seen with Keith Kent (who was to move to Twickenham the following year) with Tony Sinclair in the driving seat.