Of all the seriously cool temporary jobs at The Open, the role of scoreboard carrier boasts leading wow value. Consider this from 19-year-old Tom Bisset, who at Royal Lytham is assisting his older sister Emma (all of 21) in running Scoreboard Carriers’ HQ over by the first tee.
“Two years ago on the last day at St Andrews, I carried the board for Louis Oosthuizen’s game,” he remembers. “Walking up the 18th was totally amazing. You just can’t anticipate what it’s going to be like. The whole golfing world is watching your game. It’s pretty special.”
Both Emma and Tom are old hands as scoreboard carriers, and say they wouldn’t be very good at running the operation otherwise. In regular life Emma has just finished the third of a four-year degree in accounting and economics at Aberdeen, while Tom has completed his first year studying geography at the same university. This is the second year the two of them have run Scoreboard Carrier HQ.
“We answer to Score Control,” explains Emma. “We started work on Monday, just to get set up – there are no scoreboard carriers on practice days. Tuesday was briefing day, with Wednesday to sort out any problems. Once the Championship begins we get in at 5.30am and leave around 9.30pm.
“We have 54 carriers, one for each match and two in reserve. Most are 16 or 17 years old, recruited through the event website. Carriers have to be here 45 minutes before their match tees off. We dress the boards to go out, ensuring every name and score is correct. We check all the carriers are wearing the uniform of white overalls and blue cap, and that they have their bag of numbers. Each bag contains six plus and minus signs in blue and red, and six of every number also in blue and red, with extra number ones in both blue and red to allow for more extreme scores.”
Very occasionally, numbers get dropped out on the course and emergency replacements are required. Last year on the Friday at Royal St George’s, Tom had to sprint from Scoreboard Carriers’ HQ to the far side of the course to replenish some missing numbers.
“The most important thing is that all the carriers know their match tee times,” says Emma. “That’s why Friday afternoon is the most complicated point of the Championship for us, because the number of players – and hence matches requiring carriers – projected after the cut keeps altering. At Carnoustie in 2007 it came down to the very last match before we were certain of how Saturday would pan out.” Indeed, even as we speak the projected number of carriers for Royal Lytham post-cut veers between 44 and 36.
The job of scoreboard carrier is paid, and once their round is complete carriers are free to watch the golf. So is there competition to carry for particular players?
“We try to be fair by allocating the matches alphabetically,” says Emma. “The carriers often come back with golf balls given to them by the players, or gloves or towels. Sometimes players talk to you, sometimes not. You walk with the bunker raker, the Rules official and the scorer, so it’s not like you’re on your own. Because I’m really small, players were always asking me if I could manage the board. The worst weather is wind, because then the board acts like a sail. At St Andrews two years ago the wind was a nightmare.”
But there is no disguising their transparent love of the job.
“Friends are amazed,” says Tom. “Here in the office it’s fun looking out for the carriers we know on TV, and we get a few comments from Peter Alliss. Being a carrier is just the best way to experience The Open.”
Emma nods: “I love it. You walk within the ropes and see every shot. You really feel a part of it all. I’m shattered at the end, and it’s a mad week. But it’s the best.”