Friday, April 27, 2012

Famous Floridian Friday - Bubba Watson, PGA Champion Golfer

Northwest Florida’s Bubba Watson never took a golf lesson in his life, but the rising star of the PGA just won his first major tournament.  He took his “Green Jacket” with the shot of a lifetime at the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta.  

Bubba Watson grew up in the tiny Northwest Florida town of Bagdad, population 1,500, located 30 miles Northeast of Pensacola but in Santa Rosa County, Florida.  

 He was born Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. on November 5, 1978, and is the son of Gerry Lester Watson, Sr. and Molly Marie Watson.  Gerry Jr was given the nickname “Bubba” by his father, named for the former professional football player, Bubba Smith, now deceased.  Watson has one sister, Melinda Watson Conner.  

The self-taught sports star developed his interest in golf at an early age after his father took him at the age of six to a golf course for the first time.  Young Bubba found his passion, and spent the ensuing years practicing daily, often using waffle balls in his backyard.  "Instead of playing with trucks out in the yard, I'd play with a ball and a club," explained Watson.

Watson graduated from Milton High School in Milton, Florida where he played on the school’s golf team.  (PGA Tour members Heath Slocum and Boo Weekley also played on this school’s golf team but earlier than Watson.) 

Watson was impressive as an amateur golfer even without ever having any formal lessons.  He is unusual in that he’s a left-handed golfer.

After graduation, Watson played on the Faulkner State Community College golf team in Alabama and was named First-Team Junior College All-American while playing there.  Moving on to the University of Georgia, which had the defending NCAA champion golf team, he helped the Bulldogs clinch the 2000 Southeastern Conference (SEC) golf championship title.  He played with the University of Georgia during the years 2000 and 2001 and graduated from the university.

Professional Career

Watson started his professional career on the Nationwide Tour in 2001. For the first few years, he didn’t have a lot of success.  But in 2004, Watson gained some momentum with two second-place finishes for the season. 
In 2005, Watson had a better year, playing in 24 events, earning five Top 10s, and nine Top 25 finishes.  He ended the season as 21st on the Nationwide Tour’s money list, making him the last player to qualify for the PGA Tour in 2006. 

In 2006, Watson joined the PGA Tour. He had a third-place finish at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson and earned more than $1 million in PGA winnings.  He finished his season at 90th overall, but led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 319.6 yards in his Rookie year. 
In 2007, Bubba Watson played well at the US Open.  After 36 holes he was only one stroke off the lead.  However he slipped in the third and fourth rounds.  Watson ended up finishing the Open in a tie for fifth place.


Bubba Watson with Mom Mollie Watson
On June 27, 2010, Bubba Watson won his first PGA tournament with a win at the Travelers Championship after a second hole sudden-death playoff between Corey Pavin, Scott Verplank and himself.  He tearfully dedicated this first win to his father, who was battling cancer, and to his mother.

Bubba Watson followed up his win with a second place finish at the PGA Championship in 2010.  Once again, Watson found himself in a sudden death situation for the win but this time his ball found a water hazard.  Martin Kaymer bested Watson by one stroke to win the tournament.

Known for his ability to drive long, 2010 saw Watson’s longest-ever drive on the PGA Tour.  Competing at the Sony Open, Bubba Watson hit a drive 416 yards or 380 meters. Watson was also selected to play in October’s prestigious 2010 Ryder Cup.  But with all of his good fortune, there came a terrible loss. Watson's father succumbed to throat cancer in October of 2010.


On January 30, 2011, Bubba Watson won his second PGA Tour event, the Farmers Insurance Open, by finishing one stroke ahead of runner-up Phil Mickelson.  Watson picked up his second win of the 2011 season and the third of his PGA career on May 1, 2011 when he defeated Webb Simpson at the second playoff hole at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 

In the summer of 2011, Bubba Watson made headlines when he criticized event organizers of the Alstrom Open de France while participating on the European Tour.  Watson was unhappy with what he felt was the lack of organization of this tournament and with the lack of security.  His remarks provoked a controversy within the media. 

Also in 2011, Watson took part in the Long Drive Contest for charity at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and finished second with a drive of 370 yards, right behind Jamie Sadlowski who managed a drive over 400 yards.


In April 2012, Bubba Watson had a remarkable victory and his first major championship win at the 2012 Masters Tournament.   

He began the final round at 6-under par, three strokes off the lead of Peter Hanson. 

On the back nine, Watson bogeyed the par-3 12the hole and returned even-par for the round.  Watson then hit four consecutive birdies which tied him for the 72-hole lead with his 4th round playing partner, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.    

On the second hole in a sudden-death playoff, Watson made a FANTASTIC RECOVERY SHOT (Watch!) from the woods which set him up to win the Masters trophy and the event's famous “green jacket.”

Watson was overcome by emotion at this important win, which now marks his foray into the top tier of the golf world. "I've never had a dream go this far, so I can't say it's a dream come true," he told the crowd after his victory.

Personal Life

Watson is married to Angela “Angie” Ball Watson.  He met his wife while at the University of Georgia.  They have one son, Caleb, adopted in March 2012, and currently live in Lexington, North Carolina.

Other “Bubba” Fun Facts:

Bubba Watson was invited on The Ellen DeGeneres Show after he sent her a video of a golf trick he did for her birthday. 
 WATCH: Trick shot video and Bubba Watson on Ellen (begins at the 3:00 mark)

He owned his own clothing line called “Bubba Golf”.

He bought the original “General Lee” automobile from the Dukes of Hazard television show at auction for $110,000.

He sold his two Mercedes and a Lamborghini after deciding he would only “buy American” to support Detroit.

Watson is one of the few left-handed golfers on the PGA Tour.

The shaft on Bubba Watson's driving iron is pink. WATCH: Long Drive with Pink Driver

He’s among the longest drivers on the PGA Tour.  In 2007, he had an average drive of 315.2 yards and can hit a ball over 350 yards, and is capable of generating a ball speed up to 194 mph.   Despite this, Watson’s longest drive in professional competition was on the Nationwide Tour…a drive of 422 yards.

The Golf Boys
Watson is also a member of the "Golf Boys", a boy band consisting of Watson, Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, and Hunter Mahan. Their hit song "Oh Oh Oh" is currently on YouTube.  The video of "Oh Oh Oh", produced by State Farm, receives $1000 for every 100,000 views the video gets.

Bubba Jackson's New Toy - The General Lee

@Sanne Collins 2012 - All Rights Reserved

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