The final start: Legendary voice Bidwell, bids farewell after Rex Open (WRAL)
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RALEIGH, N.C. — He is the unmistakable voice of the Rex Hospital Open.
Bob Bidwell is as much of a fixture as the tee boxes and greens themselves at Wakefield Plantation having served as the tournament starter since the tournament’s inception.
“A lot of people say giving a speech is the hardest thing,” Bidwell said. “It makes them more nervous than anything. For some reason, I relish it.”
Between his years at TPC Wakefield and time in Miami, 50-plus tourneys, he’s announced them all.
“Oh, Hall of Famers,” Bidwell said of the names that have graced his script cards.
For decades, he has sported the same distinctive look — a throwback not only to the ghosts of golf fashions past, but Bidwell’s days in the 82nd Airborne.
“The Germans in World War II called the paratroopers, ‘Devils in Baggy Pants,’” Bidwell recalled. “Here it is, 70 years later, and I’m still wearing baggy pants.
“I graduated from high school, about 10 days later I joined the Army and they sent me down to Camp Wheeler, Georgia for infantry school,” Bidwell continued. “And they told us, ‘a million of you are going to die in the invasion of Japan.'”
He made 13 jumps in WWII.
After his service and a career in education, Bidwell admits this is not a bad side-gig.
And he’s quite good at it. He was honored as the Web.com Tour’s Volunteer of the Year last year.
“Oh, my gosh. I thought no way,” he said. “There are 15,000-to-20,000 volunteers. All I do is start.”
But after Sunday, the 88-year-old stalwart starter … may be finished.
“This is it,” Bidwell admitted. “This will be the last Tour event I do.”
The final verse of a voice that’s meant more than words to this tournament.