Ivor Robson hasn't been to the bathroom in 25 years.
Or sat down.
Or drunk a drop, including water.
Or eaten a bite.
July 25, 1999
Or missed a day of work.
Or been out of uniform--coat and tie--even in 100[degree] heat
or in 20[degree] blizzards.
Ivor Robson is the official 1st tee starter for the British
Open. Last week at Carnoustie, for the 25th straight year, he
was standing exactly where you expected to find him--on the 1st
tee, hair perfectly combed, tie cinched up, posture absolutely
erect, primly announcing each and every one of the players, in
his unforgettable tenor. "On the tee, Payne Stewart!"
"I love this job," the ruddy-faced, silver-haired Scot will tell
you, but only after the last player in the field of 156 has teed
off. "I absolutely love it."
And he takes it very, very seriously. "This job requires total
and complete concentration," he says. For that reason he doesn't
touch a drop of liquid after 7 p.m. the night before. For
instance, each night last week in Carnoustie, he would have a
sandwich and a glass of mineral water and nothing more until the
following night at 7 p.m. He loses "about a stone [14 pounds]"
each Open, he says, but it makes it very easy to eschew the loo
And it's a loooong day. Before the cut, Robson, who refuses to
divulge his age (looks 50, tops, but could be 65), is
introducing golfers for nine straight hours, from 7:15 in the
morning to 4:15 in the afternoon, without sitting, drinking,
eating or relieving. Says he, sternly, "I don't fool about."
Ivor Robson would make a very good guard at Buckingham Palace.
"This is the greatest job in the world, and I give it the
ultimate respect," says Robson, who also starts all European PGA
Tour events and dozens of charity tournaments. "I don't want
cups of water spilling over. I don't want food around. I don't
have time to excuse myself. There's no time!"
There's so much to do. For every player, Robson checks the
circumference of his golf ball and whether it is sanctioned for
play; the number of clubs in his bag (he saved Ignacio Garrido
two strokes at last year's Open after Garrido came to the tee
with 15); the pronunciation of the player's name; and that he's
not late (if he is, Robson starts his stopwatch--it's two shots
for tardiness but disqualification if a player is more than five
minutes late). He also has to decide whether to offer up his
traditional, cheery "well played yesterday" if appropriate, or
just a mere, sad "play well today."
Once some members of the British press bet him that he would
screw up the name of Nigerian professional Peter Askaksiaka, but
Robson birdied it, having practiced with Askaksiaka himself for
15 minutes before the round. The Taiwanese are tough, too, but
not for the man known as the Voice of Golf. "Their names go back
to front," Robson explains. "So you've got to be careful,
If Ivor Robson isn't careful, Roseanne is a Victoria's Secret
model. In 25 years of painstakingly careful introductions, he
says he has never once had a single player tell him he had a
He doesn't chat up the players if they don't feel like being
chatted up. He rarely mentions the horrible shots he has
seen--and he has seen a mile's worth, including the time in 1993
at Royal St. George's when Tom Lehman stone-cold topped his tee
shot not 30 yards. Or the time in 1995 when Ian Baker-Finch
duck-hooked it so far left on No. 1 at St. Andrews that it went
across the 1st fairway, the 18th fairway and out-of-bounds.
But what's most remarkable about Robson--other than his ability
to dispense with basic human biological needs--is that one
reason he quit professional golf and took up starting
professional golfers is that he had an unabated fear of being
announced on the 1st tee. "Once I was out on the course playing,
I was fine," says Robson, who played the Scottish pro tour from
1964 to '74. "But I absolutely lived in fear of the 1st tee. I
hated having my name announced. I'd get to shaking so bad with
nerves that I finally had to give it up altogether. Now I'm
doing the very thing that killed me."
True, but look at it this way: The finish of the starter's golf
career was the start of one of the greatest finishing starter's
careers in history.
(Or is that too much fooling about?)