By Robyn Bristow
Murray Dickson has a keen eye for levels and disease and knows how important the local bowling club is to his Cheviot community.
In spite of drought and an earthquake that sent a huge crack straight through the No 7 rink, Murray has kept the club rolling on over the past 16 years, and his work has now been recognised on the national stage.
Murray was named the runner up Green Keeper of the Year at Bowls New Zealand’s annual awards earlier this month. The honour follows him taking out the Canterbury title a few weeks previous.
But he is quick to deflect the credit for having one of the top greens in New Zealand, saying its a team effort, and that the success is not just his, but also the districts.
“It is for the district because it is so united. The community’s support keeps it (the club) going and the club has earned the award as much as anyone,” he says.
Murray offered to take over the greenkeeping in 2002 after the previous green keeper had to give it up.
He was president of the club at the time and said he would do it for a month. Sixteen years on he still has the job and credits the support of his team and the Canterbury Greenkeepers Association, for the much admired green.
He reserves special mention for Ron Sabin and Stu Dalley who have been the first ones to come and help when a problem has arisen.
“They have been a marvellous support, along with my team who all have their job to do, and do it,” he says.
Murray says he would hate to think about the number of voluntary hours he spends a week at the club making sure no disease has crept into the Cotula (Maniototo) green and ensuring it is well watered and up to speed.
“I come down every day and inspect it. Disease is the killer and spraying is a major part of keeping it under control.
“The thing is recognising disease before it spreads because the damage is then done.
“I am always looking for telltale signs,” he says.
He says maniototo, a swamp weed, is very successful in Canterbury as the conditions are ideal, although it needs a huge amount of water.
The club has six 30,000 litre tanks which it uses to sprinkle irrigate the green and very occasionally are used to flood the green.
But they are also back up for the Cheviot township in an emergency.
“We make sure they are always full.”
The green is planed with a special machine bought out from Christchurch.
“Its planed to get the levels dead right. You are looking at a variance of 1 to 2 mm.”
Murray mows the green once every two or three weeks, unlike others greenkeepers who mow four or five times a week. A roller adds the special touch to ensure the green runs at 17 seconds.
“Its a bit of an art.”
Murray says in an effort to stop shoes from burning the green in the intense heat experienced in Cheviot, he keeps the outside of the greens lush and long and wet, to cool them down.
“We managed to get through last year without any scorch marks,” he says.
Murray says visitors from other clubs love playing on the green and travellers often stop in to watch games at the picturesque club, particularly Americans, as the game is not played in the United States.
Murray, who is a keen and adept bowler, taught his wife, June,
to bowl many years back and “I haven’t beaten her since”.
She has become an integral part of the team that makes the club such a huge success.
Today there is up to 40 permanent members and it is the biggest club in the Hurunui district. Its facilities are used about five days a week.
“Cheviot is no different than anywhere else, but we have a great community. The community takes ownership and everyone has a different skill. It is a great place to live.”