Acting Deputy Course Manager Ian Higgins swapped the fairways of Thornbury Golf Centre for the turf of Celtic Manor recently as he spent ‘the best week of his life’ tending the greens for the Ryder Cup.

The 47-year-old, who lives in Thornbury, spent a week rubbing shoulders with the greatest golfers on the planet when he swapped his Thornbury overalls for official Ryder Cup gear.

He answered a call for experienced greenkeepers to help out at the event, which saw Europe regain the famous old trophy from the USA in a thrilling, but rain interrupted, match.

Higgins, who has worked at Thornbury for four years, was one of an extra 70 greenkeeping staff brought in by Celtic Manor to join its 64 staff, to ensure the course was kept in perfect condition for the three-day event.

And they needed all of that expertise as the heavens opened throughout the weekend, causing the match to go into a fourth day for the first time in its 83-year history.

“It started raining heavily on the Wednesday and then again on the Friday morning,” said Higgins.

“We had 33mm of rain from 8pm on Thursday through till 2pm on Friday and the course was drenched.

“I was stationed at the practice ground but was taken off there when the rain hit, so was out on the course greens and fairways and pumping the water from the bunkers.”

Once the rain had stopped and play restarted, Higgins was back at the driving range where he spent the week ensuring the practice ground was in pristine condition for the players to warm up, and he found he became a popular man among the players and caddies, including world number one Tiger Woods and European Ryder Cup hero Graham McDowell.

Higgins added: “When the sheet went up and I found out I’d be stationed at the practice ground I was a little disappointed as I wanted to be on the course where the action was.

“But a few of the Celtic Manor staff were calling me a lucky so and so.

“Once I started work I realised why. On the practice ground the players are a lot more relaxed and they want to talk to you to find out what the course conditions are like.

“I had conversations with Tiger, Luke Donald, Graham McDowell and Ross Fisher.

“On the final day I had a long conversation with Tiger Woods’s caddie Steve Williams who was talking to me about the state of the course.

“All the players were extremely friendly, it was amazing, the best week of my life.”

It was an extra special way for Higgins to celebrate his 47th birthday, but that was something he didn’t share with his temporary work colleagues.

“They have a tradition at Celtic Manor of throwing you in the lake on the 18th when it’s your birthday, so I made sure I kept quiet.

“I’d already seen one greenkeeper dumped in the lake and it looked cold - I didn’t fancy that,” he said.

Higgins is now back doing the day job at Thornbury Golf Centre, where he tends to the greens and fairways of the public pay-and-play centre’s 18th hole High Course and par-3 Low Course as well as the driving range and putting green.