Ivor Robson has been announcing players on the first tee of European golf tournaments for over 40 years, and he's never had a single toilet break. That tells you everything you need to know about the man's dedication. His voice has become synonymous with golf, and will be impossible to replace. We caught up with him just before he hangs up the microphone, after his final tournament, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
I've never had a toilet break
People find that hard to believe. But I’ve never had to leave the tee for any reason since 1975. I’ve never had a toilet break or felt ill. I’ve been incredibly lucky that way. For 37 years the routine has never changed. I’m in bed by 8pm having had a sandwich and some mineral water and I set my alarm for 5am the following morning. I never have any breakfast and I don’t eat or drink all day, until I leave the tee. If you don’t put anything in, nothing wants to come out.
I go through six blazers a year
Green is the colour now. I used to wear blue blazers which were made for me by a tailor in Glasgow, but that changed around 1998. The green ones are supplied for me and I get through about six a year. I represent Rolex and I’m their official timekeeper for tournaments all over the world. It means I cover about 28 events in the season including places like Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Australia and South Africa. I travel alone. The wife’s happy to stay at home back in Moffat and look after the house for me. I know how lucky I’ve been. Where in the world could you have a better job than this? What greater honour could you have? Dickie Bird had Lords, I have the Open Championship. I’m a lucky man, I really am.
Not every player shakes my hand
I think everyone is nervous when they walk onto that first tee, even some of the young ones these days, though they don’t show it. At Fulford one year there was a chap who was so nervous he hit the ball with his practice swing and it went 150 yards up the middle. He looked up rather sheepishly. ‘I’ll take that,’ he said. I have noticed a remarkable difference in the quality of shots hit today. These guys crush the ball absolutely miles.
Most players shake hands when they come onto the tee, though not all. It’s not that they are being impolite, it’s just they need to be careful. You should never grip too hard with the ones that do because that can affect the way they hold the club. There can also be a problem with the lady scorers. Sometimes they have hand cream on and if that gets on a player’s palm it can be very difficult to get off. It’s very greasy, which is not what you need. I occasionally have a word to explain that a player isn’t being disrespectful. I’ve seen a few players get caught out by that one, including Gary Player, though he didn’t fall for it again after that.
It's not just about getting their names right
It’s not just a question of introducing the players to the crowd; timekeeping is the most important responsibility I have. There’s no grey area here, if they are not on the tee when the minute hand hits 12 then they are late and the referee is called over to dish out a penalty.
At the World Matchplay this year, the young Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello was in danger of being late for his quarter final match. He had 10 seconds to go when I saw him walking up from the putting green. I don’t shout that often, so when I bellowed ‘Run’ at him, he did exactly that. He made it with a couple of seconds to spare, or he’d have been one down without hitting a shot. Two paces away from the short grass when the game is called and you’re deemed late, it’s that black and white.
It's all about keeping it simple
If there is an art to this job then it’s to keep things simple. People haven’t come along
to hear me trying to be clever with the introductions. I’m always aware that I need to present the player to the gallery in a succinct and orderly way so that they can then get down to the real business of watching the player play.
I was once told that with the more difficult names you should take one stab at it and try to sound convincing. I usually do it phonetically. I cross the name out and write above it the right sounds.
There was a player at Dunhill Cup at St Andrews and the guys in the press room were taking bets that I would get it wrong. It was Peter Akakasiaka. So I asked him how to pronounce his name and he said it’s dead easy Ak-Aker-see-aker. He then told me that he was in Ireland the previous week and the starter there had said ‘On the tee, Peter Ak...’. He then played his shot and was walking off the tee when the starter looked up bewildered and said ‘aker’.
It will be strange to watch someone else doing my job
I’m 73 now. All this can’t go on forever. It’s hard to imagine a time when I’m not on the first tee. That will be a very strange feeling indeed.