Staff in Focus: Mark Silvester - Whaleback Golf Course Superintendent
Mark Silvester commenced work at the Whaleback Golf Course in April 1989. That was the year the Berlin Wall came down, in Australia Bob Hawke was Prime Minister, HECS was introduced, we won The Ashes on English soil for the first time in 40 years and Cher’s single “If I Could Turn Back Time” spent seven weeks on top of the charts.
Mark hated school and reluctantly commenced year 11 as his parents wouldn’t let him leave school unless he had a job. Having enjoyed work experience with an uncle who was a horticulturalist at a nursery, Mark wrote to five golf courses asking for work. He’d played at Whaleback the year before through school and thought it would be a good place to work. Unbeknown to Mark, there was a turf management apprenticeship being offered at Whaleback and the then Superintendent Don Fleming was impressed by his initiative so he got the job!
Don had been at Whaleback from its opening in 1981 and they worked well together. Mark was often thrown in the deep end and being one of the young ones in the team was given the responsibility of looking after the first computerised irrigation control system in the late 90s. This gave him a stepping stone to more administrative duties which added to his skills. A few years before Don retired, he asked Mark if he had aspirations to take over and the response was “not really”. Don wasn’t put off and replied “Don’t worry, I’ve got a few years to work on you.” So Mark took over the reins on Don’s retirement and was officially appointed Superintendent in 2016 - 27 years and a day after he commenced.
Mark lists off countless improvements during his time at Whaleback: new maintenance shed in 1992, extensive changes to the course layout (some caused by the extension of Roe Highway in early 2000s), addition of smaller lakes from drainage basins, new proshop, club house and two storey driving range in 2002 and regularly upgraded fleet. The irrigation system was just upgraded late last year, and in fact is the biggest project Mark has been involved in over his 30 plus year career to date. This year will see him move to a new adjacent office which will better house the computerised irrigation system, provide better wifi and create some space in the maintenance shed.
In his free time, Mark plays little golf. He enjoys family time with partner Lisa and four year old Lucas; kayaking, walking, visiting cafes and general “kids’ stuff”. On a recent visit to the course with family on a day off, his son spotted the guys on diggers and said he wanted to be a golf course worker. This caused a chuckle in the Silvester household.
Nearly 33 years after commencing at Whaleback, Mark has built up a new young team and says he’s one of the older team members now. The love of his work is evident in the way he talks with pride about the course and staff. There is currently an opening for a Sports Turf Management Apprentice at Whaleback Golf Course. I wonder if the next Superintendent will be amongst the applicants.
Tree planting at Whaleback
Work is underway to regenerate the surrounds of a lake at Whaleback Golf Course. This has involved removing non-native species, old logs and grass from around the lake. Now the rains have come, it’s planting time and the recent school holidays were an ideal time to get this work done. A planting session was conducted with the Landcare Officer from SERCUL (South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare), volunteers from the Whaleback Scout Group and some golf course maintenance crew.
Almost 4000 native tube stock especially suited to be close to the water’s edge, have been planted in the last month. The plants are great for the environment, requiring less watering, fertiliser and pesticides. They improve water quality and provide a habitat for native species.
Be sure to check out the new plantings near the 7th tee and watch them grow as you play at Whaleback over the coming months.
More than golf
More than Golf was the community consultation undertaken in 2020 to seek input and ideas from the community to shape the development of the Whaleback site in Parkwood.
The project has morphed into what we are now calling the Whaleback Concept Plan. The goal of this plan is to outline activities to revitalise the Whaleback site over the next 10 years, with the aim for this site to appeal to a more diverse customer base and ensure this large City asset supports the City’s vision of being welcoming and thriving.
Stay updated by clicking here.
PGA Coach Donna
Donna Crouch is a golf professional based at Whaleback Golf Course. She's about to end her second stint at Whaleback and will be greatly missed.
Donna is a wheatbelt girl, from a farm in Yelbeni which is just a bit further out than Wyalkatchem. She describes it fondly as a town with three houses, a wheat bin, general store and a golf course. Yelbeni Golf Club was well ahead of its time, allowing Donna to play with adults from age 12. They had men and women playing on the same day, and handicaps up to 54 - which wasn't brought in until two years ago by Golf Australia. In Donna's words: "Why wouldn't you help people?" Coincidentally, Yelbeni is also the birthplace of Terry Gale - another very successful Western Australian golf professional.
To become a golf professional (PGA member) requires a three year traineeship which covers the business side of golf as well as repairs, fitting and teaching. Donna did two years at Yokine and her last year at Whaleback in 1999, where she continued as a professional until 2005. After that she worked primarily at Maylands Peninsula Golf Course before returning to Whaleback in late 2018.
Despite living and working in the city, Donna is still passionate about country WA and takes numerous trips each year to sell golf stock, meet people and play around the state. She has been involved in a GolfWA country tournament for many years which raises money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Donna wears a $4 Cannington op shop dress in shades of pink and orange which is auctioned off each year. This can earn $2000 in 15 minutes, which Donna highlights is much quicker easier than baking cakes all year. The tournament is held in a different country town each year and has raised around $25,000 to date.
Donna coaches juniors, ladies and mixed groups as well as individuals. She loves running group clinics, seeing people improve, and getting encouraging messages from participants. It's a hard job to leave, but the FIFO world is calling. The good thing is she'll be available to run half day clinics during her week off. We wish Donna all the best.
Junior Golf Clubs Winner
Canning Vale mother of three, Martha, won the April draw of our junior golf clubs. Pictured is daughter Anna 7, who will share the clubs with her younger siblings. Dad is pretty happy about the win and looking for a second hand set of clubs to get back into the sport with his children.
For just $5, children can play with an adult. A great way to get young children involved is to have them play from where your tee shot landed, or perhaps every second hole.
Hole in One
SCUDS Social Golf Club member John recently played a hole in one, a first for the 82 year old! He was part of a group from the Whaleback based club on an away trip to Marri Park when he played a perfect shot on the 180m par 3 on the 17th. Despite feeling good about the drive, his ball was nowhere to be found and he thought it had rolled off the green. A playing partner suggested he look in the hole, and there it was!
John has been part of SCUDS Social Golf Club for the past two years after previously only playing the occasional game. "They're a great bunch of blokes, though it is very competitive." The club has around 40 members, of all ages.
Whaleback Golf Course hosts a number of social clubs, all welcoming new members. Click here
to see the contact details for each club.