Written by Genius Sports Insider Edward Dunn
All elite athletes have the intangible “it” that just, well, gets it done. Michael Jordan had the killer instinct and wouldn’t even let a fever get in the way of winning. Muhammad Ali had the intimidation factor. He had already beaten his opponent before they stepped into the ring. Tiger Woods had the best swing in golf and just dominated.
Then there’s Bubba Watson. Um, he’s the complete antithesis of all the aforementioned. He doesn’t have that killer instinct. Nope, he doesn’t really intimidate. And let’s just say his swing isn’t picture perfect.
But, boy, he sure does have “it.” He can charm you from the first tee all the way to the clubhouse. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is never afraid to tell you what he thinks about a shot. With such impetuous expressions on the golf course, a life of humility and humor is what Bubba Watson is all about.
The southern southpaw grew up in Bagdad, Florida, a tiny town just north of Pensacola. Named after his father, Gerry Sr. nicknamed his talented son after pro football player Bubba Smith. The name stuck and his pudgy look fit the nickname perfectly.
At the age of six, his father gave him a cut down 9-iron and he whacked wiffle-balls around the house. No reported lamps were broken in the making of this superstar. Most kids who learned the game at such a young age usually had swing coaches to develop them into elite golfers.
His father, Gerry, was the only one to give Bubba a “formal” golf lesson. Bubba took it from there and didn’t look back. A standout pitcher during high school, Bubba chose to play the smaller white ball with dimples on it rather than a stitched up ball. Receiving a golf scholarship to the University of Georgia, Bubba helped the Bulldogs to an SEC golf title in 2000. Leaving school a year early, Bubba turned professional in 2001 and took his quirky, self-made swing on tour.
Showcasing his enormous length off the tee, Watson led the tour in driving distance year after year. Cutting his teeth on the developmental tour, Watson finally earned his PGA Tour card and played his first full season in 2006. While finding success during his first two years on tour, Watson realized he was becoming a role model and knew he needed to set examples for the kids that looked up to him.
Since he left college early for golf, he left some unfinished business at Georgia. In 2008, without telling his friends and family, he enrolled back at Georgia and finished up his degree. For a guy with a homemade swing and no formal golf lessons, Bubba Watson was finally coming into his own skin.
Or was he?
Struggling with anger issues, Watson let his temper get the best of him on the course at times and his performance showed. Complaining and cursing his way around the course gave him a reputation one could not be proud of. Not only did it affect his golf game, it affected his personal life. Watson’s caddy and wife decided something needed to be done.
Needing an intervention to capture Bubba’s attention, Watson’s caddy, Ted Scott, and wife Angie, expressed their distaste for Bubba’s actions. Teddy, as Bubba affectionately calls him, was going to quit. After much soul searching, Bubba decided his life was too good to just throw away because of a bad temper. He shut up, put up, and showed up on the PGA tour in a big way.
2010 proved to be a breakout year for Bubba. There was also heartbreak. Shortly after winning his first PGA Tour event at The Travelers Championship in June, Bubba’s father passed away from throat cancer. A strong Christian man, Bubba used his infectious and jocular personality to grieve.
Involved in many charities, Bubba and his buddies formed their own boy band to give back. Comprised of PGA players, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane, and Hunter Mahan, Bubba and his boys made quite the ridiculous video and pop song poking fun at Hollywood music. Don’t worry Justin Bieber, your Grammy won’t be in jeopardy.
From music to fashion, Bubba keeps it real. An ambassador for the high-end clothing company Travis Mathew, Bubba’s sense of style is flashy, yet powerful. I mean, the dude has an all pink driver, wears a $500,000 Richard Mille watch on his wrist, and is the proud owner of the original General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. Who wouldn’t love this guy?
American’s fell in love with Bubba even more with his win in the 2012 Masters when he hit one of the toughest, craziest shots you’ll ever see in competitive golf. “Just a 40-yard hook with a 52 degree wedge,” said Watson. Sure, like it’s the same as a tap in for par!
When Bubba isn’t busy bombing 300-yard drives and shot-shaping his way around the course, you’ll find him busy tweeting and spending quality family time with his wife Angie and their newly adopted son, Caleb. During the holidays, Bubba has his own version of the twelve days of Christmas. Affectionately calling himself Bubba Claus, Watson reaches out to his fans by holding daily contests asking fans to do their best trick shot, sing their favorite Christmas tune, or even dress up like, well, him.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Bubba Watson is the real thing.
VIDEO: BUBBA WATSON