The world of greenkeeping offers a rewarding career for those passionate about maintaining lush and pristine playing surfaces. Becoming the first of a tiny band of female greenkeepers, Roni (Veronica) Tabor’s journey began as an apprentice with Warwick District Council.
“The third year was sports,” Roni tells us. There were a variety of sports to choose from but Roni opted for bowling greens.
Having passed all of her exams with distinction and coming second in the country in Order of Merit, Roni earned a full-time position with Warwick District Council (WDC).
“I was promoted in my first year to assistant greenkeeper in 1977. Looking back now, I believe I was the first female greenkeeper. I was offered the position of Head Green keeper in 1993/4 when Idris Elms left.”
In the coveted position of head greenkeeper at Victoria Park, Roni stepped into this role with enthusiasm. Alongside her team, she was responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the entire park and the River Walk, in addition to the bowling greens.
“Victoria Park is a lovely place to work at any time of the year. The people that used the park were very nice and pleasant. I also worked with a fantastic team of lads.”
In 1996, Royal Leamington Spa was tasked with hosting the Women’s World Championships. Roni led her team to ensure that Victoria Park was ready.
“The opening ceremony of the World Bowls was a standout moment for me. The whole town celebrated with window dressings and paraphernalia, all the world countries had their flags displayed around the greens and in the town. It was the sense of achievement of a job well done.”
Prior to the event, Roni’s team was also tasked with building a fifth green to accommodate the World Bowls tournament, presenting them with unique challenges and responsibilities.
“WDC employed the company to dig the sub-structure and drainage then all the green staff at the bowling greens and golf courses built the green. We had a problem with ‘Take all Patch’ going crazy on the new grass. The District Council sent for the Sports Turf Institute to come and access it. I remember them strolling around coming up with long-term solutions.
“I stepped in and suggested that we order a fescue mix of grass with no bents in and overseed with that. Which we did and it worked.”
After a successful career spanning decades, Roni shares valuable advice for aspiring and practicing greenkeepers of today. She emphasises the significance of staying updated with the latest equipment.
“It is devised to make the job easier, faster and more effective. There were a lot of new products coming out when I was working, new wetting agents and different chemicals that work with nature.
“Also use common sense, for example, moss has always been a problem on fine turf due to the shortness of the grass. Most green keepers treat at the end of the season; I suggest treating the moss in the summer when it is dry with a moss killer, then attack it again in the autumn and brush scarify it out.”
From humble beginnings as an apprentice to the esteemed position of head greenkeeper, Roni’s greenkeeping career stands as a testament to hard work, passion, and a commitment to excellence.