Geoff’s much loved paid hobby
By Natasha Adams
When bowlers visit the Hinterland club in Woombye on the Sunshine Coast, they always compliment the stunning greens. The club’s secret ingredient to its premium greens is its greenkeeper of more than 17 years, Geoff Steel.
Geoff’s love of keeping the greens immaculate is evident and, with almost half a century of experience, the quality of workmanship is abundantly apparent. In fact, one of the most received comments is “You can tell it’s a Geoff Steel green!”
The 73-year-old began his career by working on the railways in Armidale, New South Wales, but didn’t see much future in it. When he saw a job advert for a greenkeeper, he knew it was for him. At age 19, he started learning the ins and outs of the trade and has worked on greens at various bowls clubs in NSW and Queensland. He moved to Nambour in 1985 and cared for the local bowls club greens in town as a contractor for 23 years, in that time he added the Woombye and Mapleton Bowls Clubs to his schedule.
He decided to cut down to working for just two clubs and to this day he remains a stalwart on the cutter, spotted at the crack of dawn fertilising, watering, cutting and rolling the greens with precision and care.
Asked what he loves about the role, Geoff said he sees it as a paid hobby. “One of the main rewards of my attention to detail on the greens is the appreciation from bowlers, whether they are at local, state or international level,” said Geoff. “Now that I’m in my 70s, people ask when I’m going to retire; however, I just love what I do and being outdoors.
“It’s also a great job where I can work on my own, be out in the fresh air and have no bosses to speak of. I’m responsible for the greens and the buck stops with me. My partner Joan has always been a strong supporter getting me up at all hours and sending me off with my lunch.”
The bowls community has always been another attraction for Geoff, with many close friends made during his time in the field. There are some sad times though, as since Geoff started greenkeeping, he has seen many friends pass on, as is such in the widely older bowling community. “The people I have met throughout my career are some of the nicest people you’d ever come across,”he said.
Woombye Bowls Club Chairman Elliott Mitchell said Geoff is the best greenkeeper on the Sunshine Coast, by a long shot. “He was trained properly and is absolutely dedicated,” said Elliott. “Even when we had the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, I asked Geoff what he wanted to do. His reply was ‘I don’t care if you pay me or not, I don’t want the greens to deteriorate, and I’ll be there every day.’’’
“We get so many compliments about the conditions of our greens, especially during our biggest event of the year, The Woombye 10,000. A lot of players reckon they want to tear some of the green up and take it home, it’s so good!”
Geoff was bestowed a Lifetime Membership to the club last year and was allocated the number one membership number.
This interview occurred earlier this year; however, since then Geoff has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and has sadly been given a few months prognosis. His retirement has come sooner than expected and it’s left the bowls community and his family shattered. It will be hard to fill those boots which have walked back and forth across greens, thousands of kilometres over his half a century of dedication to providing the perfect green for bowlers.