The 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews was significant for three men who would be seeing the Old Course for the last times in their familiar roles. Two are players, Nick Faldo (OK, Sir Nick) and Tom Watson.
I always thought you had to be British to be knighted; then I read that foreign citizens occasionally receive honorary knighthoods, conferred by the Queen. It’s for those who have made an important contribution to relations between their country and Britain.
Some of those foreigners given honorary knighthoods, or damehoods, over the years include Chancellor Helmut Kohl, President Francois Mitterrand, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and actress Angelina Jolie.
Giuliani and Jolie, but not Watson?
Five Open Championships and a playoff at age 59 isn’t enough?
Maybe it’s time we sent hecklers to Buckingham Palace about this. Hecklers are an excellent choice because they always seem to have lots of free time.
I watched as Faldo and Watson finished their British Open days with the ceremonial wave from the Swilcan Bridge, and I shed a few tears for their greatness and mortality. Neither made the cut, but Faldo birdied 17, a near impossible feat for anyone last week. Watson closed with a bogey, for an 80, reminding us the golf gods are anything but sentimental.
The third retiree last week was not a player, but is as familiar as any of the great names that played there. Those of you like me, who embrace and relish the Open every year, know the voice of Ivor Robson, the one and only man in the past four decades to announce the groups as they prepare to tee off on the first tee.
This year saw the end to the tenure that started for Robson at Carnoustie, back in 1975. He has not missed any championships, or tee times, since then. Robson said there was not a better place to step down than at the home of golf.
He said he’ll miss a number of things about the Open, most of all the people. “You can’t go on forever, and if you’re going to step off, there’s no better place to do it than here. It’s time to go.”
In the time Ivor Robson has sent players off the opening tee at the oldest championship of the sport, he said it’s been the Opens played at St. Andrews that have become cornerstones of his legacy.
“They are all different, you know. I’ve had some nice ones, but St. Andrews is special. It’s just magnificent.”
Part of Robson’s mystique is that he would not leave his post at the first tee from the moment the day’s first ball was hit until the last player in the final group teed off. He said he had no food, no drink and no restroom breaks.
Besides announcing the day’s pairings, Robson had other duties that were sometimes more important. He checked the golf ball of each player, and often times would count clubs. In 1998, Robson was able to save Ignacio Garrido a penalty of two strokes after noticing he was carrying 15 clubs in his bag.
During the 1960s and 70s, Robson played on the Scottish Tour, but was not a fan of the opening tee box. He said while playing, he always feared having his named announced.
So it’s ironic that the first tee eventually became his home, a place where he announced 18,995 players.
Let’s hope there’s a Sir Ivor soon as well.
Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.