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Annabelle and CIT turf students make the cut

Published: 18 Dec 2023

Annabelle Southall laughs sheepishly, admitting she's never played a round of golf and that her rented home has artificial lawn.

It hasn't limited the 21-year-old Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) student from becoming one of the region's most promising golf greenkeepers, the first female apprentice to be crowned Graduate of the Year by the ACT Sports Turf Managers Association.

Annabelle, who works at Royal Canberra Golf Club, was also among seven CIT sports turf management students who recently volunteered to help prepare courses for some of Australia's biggest golf tournaments this season.

Annabelle, Brandon Williams (also Royal Canberra Golf Club), Riley Willcox (Gold Creek Country Club) and James Correll (Federal Golf Club) all gained valuable work experience at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, which co-hosted the men’s and women's Australian Open.

Last month, CIT students Rory McAlpin, Riley Stokan (Pambula-Merimbula Golf Club) and Zac Wels (Tura Beach Golf Club) made the trip to Brisbane to join the greenkeeping crew for the Australian PGA tournament at Royal Queensland Golf Club.

Annabelle said it was an invaluable experience, starting as early as 3.30am some mornings to have the course in top shape for the world’s elite golfers.

As ACT Graduate of the Year, Annabelle will progress to the national awards in Brisbane in June 2024. Annabelle said it was hard to believe how far she’d come after three years of study with CIT and her work with Royal Canberra.

"I started in retail after school, but I just really liked the idea of working outdoors and so I got some work experience in landscaping. Then I saw the job with Royal Canberra," Annabelle said.

"I'd never played golf in my life, but we get to do a lot here [at Royal Canberra], I've been on every machine you can think of.

“The CIT study was good too, to get all the theory behind the practical stuff you’re doing at work, like spotting diseases and pests in the turf.”

CIT sports turf management teacher Jon Tait said the course attracted students from Canberra and surrounding regions, including the NSW South Coast and Riverina.

"Sport is huge business and the quality of playing surfaces has a big impact on things like performance, safety and the environment," Jon said.

"Our students can apply what they learn to a number of sporting environments, whether it's a large premier golf course, to cricket wickets, grass tennis courts and football arenas.

"You learn to install irrigation and operate relevant machinery. For those who love working outdoors, it's a wonderful industry with so many options."

Find out more about working in sports turf management here Sports Turf Management : Canberra Institute of Technology (

Photos for this story are courtesy of Brett Robinson/ASTMA