Balicki: Memories of a young Bubba Watson

 Bubba Watson of the United States walks up the 18th fairway during the final round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

Bubba Watson of the United States walks up the 18th fairway during the final round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

A number of years ago, before he made his way to the PGA Tour, Bubba Watson was playing the Nationwide Tour’s Rheem Classic at Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, Ark.

I happened to be at the event that week, working on a few future feature stories. During a Tuesday practice round, I was roaming the practice putting green, talking to a number of players whom I had gotten to know from their college days. Just as I was making my way across the green, heading back to the media center, I heard, “Hey, Ron.”

I stopped, turned and looked. It was Watson calling out to me.

“Don’t you want to talk to me?” I remember him saying.

I just smiled and answered jokingly, “Why would I want to talk to you?”

His reply, and one I will never forget, was, “Because I’m the best left-handed Bubba from Bagdad, Fla., in the field.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, and with an answer like that I knew I had to stop and talk to him. At the time, his claim to fame was a standout career at the University of Georgia (by way of Faulkner State Community College in Alabama).

I thought about that incident last week as I watched the Masters on television, especially the sudden-death finish at the 10th hole.

And I thought, well, Mr. Watson, you now are the only left-handed Bubba from Bagdad, Fla., to wear a green jacket at Augusta and carry the title of Masters champion.

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