Smith & Nephew boss John Robinson impresses former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallagher with his no-nonsense approach to golf at Wentworth.
John Robinson was easy to spot when I wandered into the clubhouse at Wentworth. Not that he was dressed in a flamboyant manner, but because he demonstrates the quiet authority which I have come to expect from those in the world of business. In my time on tour and as a club professional at Wentworth, I have come across many of the major corporate players. The best of them make an immediate impression on you. Robinson, eager and healthy-looking, greets me with a firm handshake, and immediately fits into this mould.
I felt nervous about meeting him. Over the years I have become accustomed to being interviewed, rather than interviewing. Standing on the other side of the notepad for the first time is far more daunting than standing over a three wood with a large lake between me and the distant green.
But I have no need to worry. Robinson immediately puts me at my ease when I should be putting him at his. 'Don't worry, it'll be fine. Ask me anything you want.' Reassured, I start to relax a little.
We decide to play the east course. The west course is the more famous by virtue of the many important championships played there by the greats of golf over the years. But the east, designed in the 1920s by Harry Colt, is a delight in its own right. Perhaps more importantly, it is also easier to walk around. Not that this bothers Robinson. He clearly loves to play the game wherever he happens to find himself and is as happy to walk around carrying his own bag as letting a caddie carry it for him.
Robinson, who is a Yorkshireman, has a respectable handicap of 19 and is working hard to bring it down further. He is a member of the Brough golf club in his native county and plays once a week at the very least. His home and heart are still in the north and he travels to London by train every Monday morning, returning at weekends. He takes his clubs on holiday with him - his favourite golfing holiday destination is Grantown-on-Spey in Scotland. Seve Ballesteros remains the golfer he most admires. The best days of the Spaniard's 'flair and charisma' may be in the past but the memory of Seve's heyday still inspires him. He is also impressed by Nick Faldo, likening his ultra-professional approach to that of that greatest living Yorkshireman, Geoffrey Boycott.
Robinson is friendly as we stroll around the course and gets on with the game in uncomplicated fashion. During our round he plays consistently to his handicap and, thank heavens, doesn't mess about when standing over the ball. To my mind, slow play is the greatest curse of the modern game.
But with Robinson, there is no chance to dawdle. He simply hits the ball, finds it and hits it again. No frills, no nonsense.
This attitude reveals much about Robinson's approach to his business life. One also gets the impression that the application, concentration and sheer effort he puts into his game are the qualities which have helped him to the top of the pile in business. He is clearly a very focused individual in everything he does, and does not take thoughts of work with him onto the golf course, or vice versa. He is certainly no fan of the corporate golf scene, where deals are made between shots, although that hasn't stopped the invitations to such corporate events from flooding in.
Until Robinson reached 40 (he is now 56) he was, he says, a 'keen and active sportsman, playing cricket, rugby and squash'. The cricket is no surprise for a Yorkshireman. But I was bowled over by his dedication to maintaining a high level of fitness. Apart from golf, he goes to the gym a couple of times a week. It is his first destination when he returns from the frequent trips abroad. 'A good work-out is the best way of getting over jet lag,' he insists.
After our game we retreat to the clubhouse for a chat and a sandwich.
I tell him that he should concentrate on not pulling the club across the line at the top of his back swing if he wants to eliminate the hook that can plague his game. In return, he tells me that business should concentrate on not being bulldozed into a single currency for Europe. This seems like a fair exchange of ideas, I reflect, as I watch him depart for London for another business meeting.