Webb was a huge, broad-shouldered, balding man with Popeye forearms, a fierce stare that demanded discipline without any vocal support, and a smile as soft as a teddy bear.
Long-time PGA Tour rules official Ben Nelson was one of the first of “Robbie’s boys.”
“I think we all thought Robbie was teaching us how to play golf,” Nelson said. “What we were really getting from him were life lessons. We were learning how to act.
“Most of us improved our golf games because of Robbie. All of us became better people.”
Former tour professional Randy Watkins Thursday called Webb “the godfather of Mississippi golf.”
That’s no stretch. He introduced Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer James Ray Carpenter, future president of the PGA of America, to golf. He introduced Hall of Famer Ken Lindsay, another future PGA president, to the PGA. He taught Hall of Famer Joe Iupe, Jr., who went on to win five State Opens and one State Amateur. He taught Leigh Brannan who won four Opens and one State Am. He taught, at last count, 25 junior players who went on to earn college scholarships.
He did it for free.
“To my knowledge Mr. Webb never charged a junior for a lesson, and he must have given literally thousands and thousands of them,” Iupe said. “You didn’t have to do it Mr. Webb’s way. That’s not the way he taught. He looked at your swing and adapted his teaching to fit you.”
Said Brannan, “Most times Mr. Webb didn’t have to even say anything to get his point across if you weren’t acting right. He’s just give you that state and scare the hell out of you. You did not want that man mad at you. I probably got that stare more than anybody.”
Webb, who won the State Open himself in 1968, was an accomplished player. Back in the day of wooden drivers and soft, balata golf balls, Webb was a notoriously long hitter who often drove the green on par-4 holes and reached par-5s in two shots with ease.. He played No. 1 for Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer B.O. Van Hook at USM.
And this will tell you something about Webb’s wit. Once, USM was playing a dual match with Millsaps College and Webb was one-down at the turn to future Hall of Famer Mary Mills, who would later win nine LPGA tournaments, including three majors.
Said Van Hook, sarcastically, “Webb, you gonna let a girl beat you?”
Responded Webb handing his golf bag to Van Hook, “Hell, Hook, you try her.”
Iupe credits all the success he had in a Hall of Fame golf career to Webb.
“He knew just what to say and how to say it,” Iupe said. “He didn’t over-teach. He could teach a 36-handicapper or a touring pro because he knew how to play and he knew how to teach and the combination was fantastic.”
Watkins believes the practice tee in heaven was especially active Thursday afternoon.
Said Watkins, “I’m guessing Robbie is giving the simplest and best golf lessons ever.”