Malcolm Holland finished his routine with the players and then he kept his eyes on the digital clock sitting on a nearby table, counting down before him. He had it down to perfection now, and with precisely 20 seconds remaining before the next starting time at the U.S. Open, Holland took his place behind the microphone.
He flipped it on and then stood straight and tall in his gray slacks and navy blue blazer. Holland had practiced the pronunciation of some of the names he would have to call out but this group – the sixth group to start on hole No. 1 – made it easy on him.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Holland said slowly and deliberately, with an emphasis on each syllable. “This is the 7:40 starting time. Please welcome, Webb Simpson.”
There were loud cheers then for Simpson, the Raleigh native who was the 16th player Holland announced on the first tee. By the end of Thursday, he would announce 78 names – each time signifying the start of a player’s journey at the U.S. Open, each name resulting in, at minimum, a polite round of golf claps.
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Half the field on Thursday began their rounds on the sound of Holland’s voice. Holland, 54, had done this job back home, in Texas, where he has worked plenty of Texas Golf Association events, but he’d never done anything like this – announcing names on the first tee of the U.S. Open.
“So yeah,” he said with a smile during a brief break. “I’m excited. You know, you just have to mind your P’s and Q’s and get your job done. It can be a high stress job.”
Holland found out three months ago that he’d be doing this. He is in his second year as a volunteer with the USGA. He serves on its championship committee, and the USGA needed someone to work as the first tee announcer. Holland, a banker from Dallas, knew the right people, and they asked him if he’d be interested.
“Absolutely,” he said he told them.
He arrived at the course on Thursday morning at 5:45. There were some nerves but, then again, he had prepared for the moment. He came prepared with phonetic spellings of the more difficult-to-pronounce names. Webb Simpson is easy. Thongchai Jaidee – a Thai player who started in the group after Simpson’s – is more of a challenge.
“The Asian names are easier than the ones from Denmark and Norway and Holland,” Holland said. “I mean, it can get difficult.”
Holland called it “a huge honor” to announce the names on the first tee. He will be working there all week.
He quickly became comfortable with his routine early Thursday. When a new group came to the tee, he gathered the players and reminded them of various rules.
“Clubs, balls and bunkers,” Holland said of his talk, which he repeated over and over throughout the day. “… It’s down to a science.”
The scene repeated itself group after group. Holland talking with the players, going over the rules, repeating the same things before taking his place behind the microphone 20 seconds before the tee time. Holland is hoping he can keep this job for a while. This is his first U.S. Open, and he said announcers tend to “stay around for a while.”
That is, he said, “If you don’t mess up. So I’m trying not to mess up.”