Andrew Whittaker praises team after winning Superintendent

Joy Chakravarty 11:33 20/05/2015
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Leaving no stones unturned: Andrew Whittaker at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Praise from his peers and important people in high places is all very nice, but for Andrew Whittaker it is the often nameless feedback forms left behind by members and guests that really count.

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The Group Director of Agronomy at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club was named Superintendent of the Year at Troon Golf’s annual leadership conference in Arizona earlier this month, beating off stiff competition from the more than 250 clubs on Troon’s global portfolio.

Whittaker’s win capped a memorable conference for both clubs with Paul Booth, Abu Dhabi GC’s Director of Club Operations, named Troon Ambassador of the Year, while Saadiyat Beach’s marketing team clinched the ‘International Social Media Rock Star Award’.

While quietly chuffed by the accolade, Whittaker, who turns 36 today, insists he is merely the figurehead behind a dedicated team that routinely battle near 50-degree heat and energy sapping humidity to present the two courses in pristine condition year round.

The more worthy recipients, Whittaker insists, are his two assistant superintendents, Daniel Clarke and Alex McDowell, and the motivated green-keeping teams they lead at Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat respectively.

“It’s great to receive recognition from your peers but I have to give so much more credit to the guys who every day battle in an incredibly harsh environment and have to put into practice my crazy ideas,” the Englishman said.

Whittaker, who honed his craft at the K Club in Ireland and The Grove in Watford before moving to Abu Dhabi in 2008, describes the 100-plus strong team as “phenomenal people… the best work force I’ve seen in 20-odd years in this game”. 

For Whittaker, the 11th Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship next January will be his eighth in charge.

But the desire to produce year-round quality motivates him just as much as preparing for the European Tour’s Desert Swing opener.

“The feedback from the European Tour is great but while it is fantastic to get compliments, it’s only four days a year. We are very focused on Troon Golf’s guest feedback system and we set very high standards 365 days a year. Feedback is fantastic but if it is only four days a year, we’ve failed,” he added.

Given that Abu Dhabi GC also won the Golf Course Maintenance Team of the Year award at the Sport360-sponsored MEGAs (Middle East Golf Awards) earlier this year, it is clear Whittaker’s fear of failure is proving as much of a boon for members and guests at the two clubs as it is to the world’s best players who descend on Abu Dhabi GC each January.

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