Think the pressure is only on PGA TOUR pros at the first tee box? Think again. The starters who announce the golfers’ names and hometowns carry a certain load up there, too.
David Watson, along with a handful of fellow red pant-wearing members of the Salesmansip Club of Dallas, shoulders some of that responsibility at the AT&T Byron Nelson each year. As soon as you hear him speak, you know why. His voice in one of his superpowers. It booms over crowds and settles into eardrums with a certain warming force.
As the chair of the Salesmanship Club Charitable Golf of Dallas, he tees up his voice for good reason, beyond just sending the players off. He does it to help the tournament’s beneficiary, Dallas-based Momentous Institute, which has been transforming kids’ lives since 1920 by elevating social emotional health so they can find their voice and navigate the world with the strongest foothold possible.
Watson, a Salesmanship Club of Dallas member since 2005 who works in commercial real estate, has been on the announcing team at the Byron Nelson for six years.
“My voice probably has something to do with it. It’s just so loud,” he said with a chuckle.
And it doesn’t go silent once the Byron Nelson ends either.
“If a volunteer is needed to call a high school football game, sometimes my name comes up so I’ll do it.”
So, what’s it like to send a PGA TOUR pro off for a round? We asked the dedicated husband and father of two teenage boys.
A Golfer Named ‘Louis Westenhizen?’
You might say that Watson plays the role of an air-traffic controller on the first tee box. Coordination and timing are keys to his success.
“You’ve got to get scorecards to the players and you’ve got to get them to the correct players,” he said. “You’ve got caddies who want to get their bibs on, you have all kinds of questions about what kind of rules we’re playing, if there’s been some weather or something like that. There’s a lot going on, and if the TV guys show up, it just adds a little more pressure and a little more complexity to it. You don’t want to get off time; you can’t be early or late, so there are a lot of little things.”
Then there’s the giant task of announcing the players’ hometowns and names. It sounds easy enough but if an announcer loses concentration, things can go downhill quickly.
“There’s all kinds of stories about guys announcing the wrong hometowns and even the wrong players,” Watson explained. “There are stories about guys who have announced players who were in the middle of the first fairway that are already gone. I’d say the hardest thing is staying focused because you can screw it up.”
To combat that potential problem? Watson studies the PGA TOUR guides to get their faces straight while also learning how to pronounce their names phonetically.
Even then, the job can be full of surprises, especially if a pro and his caddie are trying to keep things loose before a high-stress round.
“Louis Oosthuizen and his caddie are hilarious. One year, he was in one of the final three groups on a Sunday, so the TV cameras are up, and I want to make sure that I get his name right,” Weston recalled. “I’m thinking I know how to say it, but I want to be 100 percent sure, so I go over to his caddie and say ‘How does Louis like to pronounce his name?’ And his caddie says ‘Westenhizen.’ I’m thinking ‘Really? Oh no.’ So, before I get ready to announce, Louis walks over and asks what his caddie just told me. I said ‘to pronounce your name Westenhizen’ and he made sure I got it correct. But he proceeded to tell me a story about a golf tournament where the poor announcer got so rattled by ‘Westenhizen’ that he pronounced the wrong player, and the players on the fairway all ended up on the ground laughing with their bags over sideways.”
Life Inside the Ropes
Watson says his goal is to keep the first tee as calm as possible.
“It’s kind of like a good official in a basketball game. You don’t want to be seen up there; you don’t want people to know who’s officiating,” he said.
So, being so close to the action, is it easy for Watson to pick up on nerves and predict which pros will have a good round?
“Everyone is so different at the start that you really can’t tell how they’re going to play,” he said. “It’s funny to look back in hindsight and say ‘that guy was really up-tight on the tee and played great’ or ‘that guy was really loose and played great.’ You just never know.”
Being a golfer himself, Watson adores soaking in the competitive energy, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.
“I’m in my 50s, and as you get older, you kind of get away from that athletic, competitive edge. It’s really fabulous to watch the last two or three groups of the weekend come through,” Watson said. “You’ve got nine guys that are in the lead of the golf tournament, and somebody’s going home with more than a million bucks, and you can feel their adrenaline. That would be something I would really miss if I was away from it.”
But, thanks to a striking passion for the Byron Nelson, the Salesmanship Club of Dallas and the Momentous Institute, Watson doesn’t see his on-the-course job ending anytime soon.
“I enjoy the work, so it’s easy to spend a ridiculous amount of time on the task,” Watson said of not only announcing but helping to organize the tournament as well. “It’s incredible to see what the money does for these kids.”
Beyond an getting an education, it’s allowing kids to tend to their inner voice.