The Berkshire’s rising star
Sophie Bulpitt describes heading into a greenkeeping apprenticeship five years ago as a “shot in the dark”, but it has turned out to be an excellent decision.
“I knew nothing about golf or agronomy,” says the 24-year-old, who in early 2021 became Deputy Head Greenkeeper of the Red Course at The Berkshire Golf Club.
“I’d finished sixth form and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I’d worked in a kitchen, thought about joining the Army and considered teaching sport in schools, but in the end it came down to a choice between an apprenticeship in greenkeeping or accountancy.
“I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors though and I used to work with my grandad on agricultural machinery at farms, and I’m not really a 9-5 office kind of person. Now I’m absolutely passionate about what I do and love every minute.”
After spending three and a half years at East Berkshire GC – where she completed her NVQ Level 2 qualification – she moved to The Berkshire as an assistant greenkeeper and has worked her way up from there.
An encouraging mentor in The Berkshire’s Golf Courses Manager, Ian Morrison, coupled with a determination to succeed, has accelerated Sophie’s progression.
She has also benefitted from working around the world at world-class events, having been part of the volunteer greenkeeping teams at the Phoenix Open, The Open Championship at Royal Portrush, the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles and the Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris.
“I didn’t know anyone and I was very nervous, but it was so worth it,” she says. “The experiences you get are fantastic.
“My advice to anyone just starting out or considering a career in turf would be to always push yourself. I really took myself out of my comfort zone at those events and had to prove myself.”
Sophie admits that a young woman working in a male-dominated industry sometimes raises eyebrows, but she says these days she meets more and more other women working in golf.
“Sometimes there are people who ask what I do for a living and don’t believe me, but I want to make it to the top at some point.
“I’m lucky to have a manager who lets me take control of the day-to-day running of the Red Course, which is giving me the experience I’ll need to take the next step.
“It was strange at first, giving instructions to men older than me, but I’m used to it now and my colleagues have been very supportive, plus I’ve gained confidence from having the backing of the management team.”