"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, mustn't you?"
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 mispronunciation.
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?)