For a guy who concedes he’s very emotional, Bubba Watson did not make it easy on himself. A whirlwind of successful golf – his first PGA Tour win, a playoff loss at the PGA Championship, a heartfelt debut in the Ryder Cup – thrust him into the spotlight over the last few months and on each occasion he had to choke back tears.
It got to the point where even Watson had to shake his head and joke with the media.
“Hopefully,” he said to reporters after seizing a share of the first-round lead at the PGA and fighting to maintain composure, “you all don’t think I’m a sissy. You know, I do hit the ball a long way.”
No one would debate that point. Nor would anyone doubt that the tears are even more passionate today, because it has been learned that Watson’s father, Gerry, has died after a lengthy battle with throat cancer.
No surprise given his publicized affection for that mode of communication, but the news was made public via Twitter. Wrote Watson: “Everyone, it’s a sad day for my family!!! My dad has passed.”
Gerry Watson was a Green Beret and the influence behind one of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters.
“My dad taught me everything I know. It’s not very much, but that’s all I know. He would agree with that,” Watson told reporters at the PGA Championship.
“I’ve never had a (golf) lesson. My dad, he took me to the golf course when I was 6 and just told me he was going to be in the woods looking for his ball, so he just told me to take this 9-iron and beat it down the fairway. And now look at me . . . beating a 9-iron on the fairway, coming from Bagdad (Florida). I never dreamed this.”
It got especially emotional for Watson a few weeks ago in Wales, knowing his father had only a short time to live. But Gerry Watson spent some of his final days watching on TV as his son played in four matches at the Ryder Cup.
Especially emotional for Watson was the team dinner one evening when captain Corey Pavin invited Major Dan Rooney, a decorated F-16 pilot, in to talk to the team. He did not deny he cried.
“My dad was a military man. He was in Vietnam,” Watson said. “(Rooney) gave us a special present last night. It meant a lot. My dad is dying of cancer; the doctor says three months to live. I’m playing this for him.”
It was the least Watson could do for the man who had given him so much.