The grounds team at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, home of the Aegon Classic, were winners at the Institute of Groundsmanship’s annual awards.
David Lawrence and his team were awarded the IOG Headland Amenity Professional Tennis Grounds Team of the Year at the annual ceremony held at stadiumMK in Milton Keynes on December 4.
New for this year, the team award celebrates the very best sports turf management at a tennis club venue that hosts tournaments with paying spectators attending.
Grounds manager Lawrence and his team worked closely with the grounds team at Wimbledon to provide the same standard of grass courts for the players in Birmingham as at the All England Club.
“Obviously we are incredibly pleased to have won,” said Lawrence. “It has been our intention to attempt to recreate the courts at Wimbledon because everybody knows how good the courts are there.
“It is our intention to recreate that playing surface so that during the [Aegon Classic] tournament the competitors are playing on a like for like surface. It also means our members get the Wimbledon experience.”
The Edgbaston Priory Club has hosted a professional WTA tournament since 1982, but this year welcomed a host of top 20 players including former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic and former US Open winner Sam Stosur after the tournament was upgraded to a Premier level event.
The new Ann Jones Centre Court was opened in 2013 together with four match courts and three practice courts as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment of the club.
The five-strong team maintains a total of 14 acres, including eight championship standard grass courts, seven synthetic carpet courts, four clay, three tarmac and eight indoor Plexi-Pave courts.
The team lives on site during the build up to the Aegon Classic in June to look after the club’s ornamental trees, hedges and plants as well as maintaining the grass courts.
“For about six weeks prior to the tournament we are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week,’” explains Lawrence. “We have to dry the courts out. That is the one problem we do have because it is a bit wetter in Birmingham than it is in London. But we want to replicate the playing conditions so we work overnight with inflatable covers.”
Lawrence was also nominated for the Alex R Millar Groundsman of the Year award, which was won by Tony Sinclair, grounds manager at Manchester United Football Club.