Anthony Mills, course superintendent at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, has won the 2020 ASTMA Excellence in Golf Course Management Award, presented in partnership with ASTMA Silver Partner Bayer. In winning the award, Mills joins a who’s who of the Australian golf course superintendent profession, becoming the fifth NSW-based superintendent to collect the prized award in the past decade.
Mills has been superintendent at the eastern suburbs course since 2012, arriving there initially as the assistant superintendent after spending four years as grow-in and construction superintendent at Stonecutters Ridge. Within three weeks of starting at The Lakes, Mills found himself elevated to the superintendent role and with it the prospect of preparing the course for the 2012 Men’s Australian Open.
In the years since, Mills and his crew have undertaken some 50 course improvement projects in addition to providing exemplary playing conditions for a very active and proud membership (the course pumps through close to 60,000 rounds per annum). The Australian Open also returned there in 2018 with then Chairman of Golf Australia John Hopkins lauding Mills and his team for the incredible conditioning and presentation of the course.
The Lakes sprawls across 55 unique hectares of Sydney Water-owned land, with Mills and his assistants Aaron Taylor and Simon Blagg overseeing a crew that comprises 18 full-timers as well as part-time staff. Together they maintain two hectares of A4 creeping bentgrass greens, 25 hectares of kikuyu fairways and surrounds and two hectares of Santa Ana couchgrass tees.
“I was blown away,” says Mills of his reaction when informed he had won the ASTMA’s longest-running award. “I was truly honoured to be one of finalists, but to win it is a pretty awesome achievement and a real reflection of the work of not just me but the entire crew here at The Lakes. Together with my fantastic assistants Aaron and Simon, we have achieved a lot and it has taken a massive effort on everyone’s behalf to get the course to where it is today.
“We’ve had a lot of highlights along the way – we’ve hosted two Australian Opens, upgraded the practice precinct facilities and undertaken a major programme to renovate our fescue bunker surrounds and reinstate sandy waste areas, as well as continually improving the playing surfaces. But the biggest thing has been the satisfaction of the membership. Every two years since 2014 the club has undertaken a survey of the members and the course has gone up from an 83 per cent member satisfaction rating to 94 per cent which is extremely pleasing.”
Qualifying for the National award after taking out the State award for NSW, The Lakes Golf Club general manager Andrew Kirkman noted that Mills has continued to produce high standards throughout his tenure as superintendent, standards which many long-time members have commented are superior to any they have seen in their 50 or 60 years at the club.
“Anthony is the most talented, dedicated, smartest, patient, results-producing and successful course superintendent I have ever had the privilege of knowing, let alone working with,” says Kirkman. “Anthony has produced the highest standards of turf management over a very long period, particularly over the past three years. Even more importantly, Anthony’s character, integrity and genuinely kind nature makes him the ideal person to receive such an award. Bestowing such an honour on Anthony further highlights the truly amazing service that golf course superintendents contribute to golf clubs throughout Australia.”
As the name suggests, the ASTMA Excellence in Golf Course Management Award aims to recognise a superintendent for achieving excellence in golf course management, whether it be in the management and presentation of the course or a reconstruction project. For winning the award Mills will be bestowed a bursary of $5000 that can be used toward further education or an ASTMA approved study tour.
"Bayer is proud to again sponsor the ASTMA Excellence in Golf Course Management Award and acknowledges the significant advancements that Australian turf managers continue to make across all facets of turf management," says James Royal, Bayer's Market Manager ANZ – Turf and Vegetation Management.
"Bayer would like to congratulate Anthony for this well-deserved achievement. The immense and diverse site-specific challenges that Anthony and his team deal with daily at The Lakes are significant. However, the consistent delivery of high quality surfaces is a testament to Anthony’s leadership and continual pursuit of excellence."
Pictured top: Bayer's James Royal congratulates The Lakes superintendent Anthony Mills on his winning of the 2020 ASTMA Excellence in Golf Course Management Award. Other photos are of The Lakes tournament crew and course from the 2018 Men's Australian Open.