AUGUSTA, Ga. – Golf is more than a game.
Sometimes golf really does transform individuals into deeper, more substantial people.
I give you Bubba Watson.
Essentially what I have seen in Watson’s PGA Tour career is a boy who evolved into a man. In the beginning he was timid, uncomfortable and ineffective in sharing his thoughts. On April 13, after his second Masters victory, he presented himself as an articulate, thoughtful, sensitive golfer.
Millions saw and listened.
This had little to do with his tendency to cry after winning golf tournaments. This was more important, more meaningful.
At 35, Watson has reached a point in his life where he can clearly and thoroughly explain his feelings and emotions. He can talk about his principles and beliefs. He has joined hands with a world far beyond golf.
The Bubba Watson Foundation was formed in January 2014 to help many in need: children, young adults and members of the U.S. military. Organizations receiving money include The First Tee of Northwest Florida, Fresh Start drug and alcohol rehabilitation, Birdies for the Brave and the Ronald McDonald House in Watson’s native Pensacola, Fla.
He is supported in this effort by Ping, the family-owned golf company that has provided golf equipment for him since his days as a junior golfer. Ping has pledged an annual contribution to the Bubba Watson Foundation based on the number of Sensor Cool golf gloves (Watson’s glove) that are sold at retail.
Golf opened the door for Watson’s personal growth, and he charged through.
The best thing about the public Watson? He is believable. He is sincere. He makes no attempt to be a slick spokesman. He speaks from the heart, and, if you ask me, he speaks brilliantly.
It wasn’t always so. His early years in professional golf were an adventure in Bubbaland. He was a long way from discovering his identity.
In professional golf, we see many players grow up before our eyes. Watson has done it better than most. In the eight years since his 2006 rookie season on the PGA Tour, the rough-edged boy has become a man with a mission.
I compare Watson and John Daly, two long hitters from modest, small-town backgrounds. Both have now won two major championships, although Daly never got a handle on his life in the way that Watson has done.
It can be argued that Watson has learned as much from his 2-year-old son, Caleb, as the boy has learned from him. With children, we all grow up fast. Watson has done it gracefully.
He talks frequently about being a good father. It is clear he has been able to organize the competing responsibilities of family and golf in his life. He seems determined to be a master of both.
I don’t really know Watson. I have shook his hand, and I have talked with him briefly in the Ping tour van that follows the PGA Tour. Otherwise, I have seen him play spectacular golf and listened to his news conferences. I remain fascinated by the intricacies of Bubba Ball, or whatever we choose to call his unique combination of power and finesse.
Neither do I know his wife, Angie, but I sense how much she has influenced this man and know a strong family when I see one.
I admire the Watsons. They have taken a giant step beyond the sports arena.
Augusta National Golf Club is quiet now. The golf is finished for another Masters. It is time for the business of life. The green jacket is worn by a man who would make the world a better place.