U.S. Open

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Voice of the Open

Legendary Open Championship first-tee announcer Ivor Robson dies at age 83

October 17, 2023
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“On the tee from USA, Tiger Woods.”

The lilt was both unmistakable and comforting. For golf fans around the world, including the many Americans waking up early in the U.S., the sound of Ivor Robson’s voice on the first tee was as much a staple of the Open Championship as pot bunkers and the claret jug. Yet Robson wasn’t just the official starter at the Open for 41 years before retiring in 2015 but a weekly part on the DP World Tour for more than four decades, ingratiating himself with officials and players the world over.

On Tuesday, the R&A announced Robson had died at age 83. No cause was given.

“He was popular and well respected among all golfers who played in The Open, and I know that they will share in our sadness at the news,” Martin Slumbers, R&A CEO, said in a statement. “On behalf of all of us at The R&A, I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to his wife of 61 years, Lesley, and the Robson family.”

During his career, Robson befriended generations of legendary golfers, from the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer to contemporaries Woods and Rory McIlroy. The BBC reported that he had announced the names of 18,995 players during his career at The Open.

Like fans, players, too loved to attempt to imitate Robson’s distinct delivery on the first tee.

Born in 1940 in England and living as an adult in the Scottish town of Moffat, Robson worked his first Open in 1975 at Carnoustie. It was there that he set a routine that hardly varied in the years after. For early rounds, Robson would arrive at the first tee shortly before the first tee times at around 6:30 a.m. and remain at his post until past 4 p.m. Remarkably, he never missed a tee time in his years of work.

Urban legend had it that Robson never took a bathroom break while on duty, something he debunked during his swansong at St. Andrews in 2015.

“You have to be careful drinking water or eating, if you stand on the tee that long,” he said. “Luckily at St. Andrews the clubhouse is just behind the first tee if you really need to go to the toilet. I don’t have big dinners, or go to the bar in the evening. You can’t. It’s too demanding a job. You wouldn’t last long if you did.”

In his retirement, Robson played golf at Moffat Golf Club and remembered fondly the bonds he’d shared with the greats of the game that he’d shaken hands with on the first tee.

“To the professionals, it has been great fun being here with you,” he said in 2015. “We have had lots of banter and it has been wonderful. You are a credit to the professional game. And to the spectators, thank you for your wonderful support over the years."

Looking back to his Open career, he added, “It is a great honor to be the official starter for the greatest championship in the world. I’m privileged and immensely proud. They were all very special.”