Bubba Watson: Masters champion with many hats ignored parents’ wishes

CNN  — 

Bubba Watson has got so much going on, it’s hard to believe he’s got enough time to focus on his golf.

He’s the defending champion at this week’s Masters, where the trick-shot king is seeking to join legends such as Gary Player, Sam Snead and Phil Mickelson on three wins apiece.

As well as targeting another Green Jacket, he and his wife have two small adopted children, three-year-old Caleb and baby Dakota, to look after.

He’s a minority owner of a minor league baseball team, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos – the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds – and a member of his sport’s only singing group, the “Golf Boys.”

He’s also a key figure in the production of the wackiest golf buggy ever seen, a hovercraft nicknamed “Bubba’s Hover” by some, and the proud owner of the car used in the cult TV classic “The Dukes of Hazzard” – the General Lee.

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It’s not necessarily what you might expect from a teetotal, nonsmoking devout Christian from the U.S. south, but then Bubba Watson isn’t your everyday sportsman.

He tries to reply to every message he’s sent on Twitter – where he has a 1.3 million fanbase built on his outrageous repertoire of novelty golf shots.

In fact, his Twitter profile lists his priorities: “Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer.”

Self-taught in golf, he says he was good enough to play professional baseball.

That’s the sport his late father desperately wanted him to pursue – and it’s the latter’s voice that rings between his ears.

“You know, every athlete talks about that, when they lose a parent,” the 36-year-old told CNN.

“I remember winning the Travelers (Championship) in 2010, it was three months before he passed away and it was my first win, ever, on tour.

“The phone conversation was, ‘So you need to practice.’ And I said, ‘Dad, I just won.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, but you need to get better because this shouldn’t be your only win.’

“So what I hear, every time I win or do something good, is, ‘You need to go practice.’ “

It was some of the last advice Bubba was given by his father and he’s taken it fully on board.

“There’s more younger kids coming up, there are more records to be broken and there are more things you want to do, so you’ve got to keep practicing – and that’s what I’ll always remember of my dad.”

Both of Watson’s parents were such big baseball fans that his mother wrote a letter to then New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after Bubba’s birth in 1978 to say there was a new Yankees fan – and possibly player, too – in the world.

“My dad thought I was going to be a Yankees player and they started baseball early, and I played for years,” explains Watson, who was made to practice pitching for many years by his father.

“My dad was heartbroken when I chose golf instead of baseball. For years.

“When I finally went on tour, he changed his tune a little bit. And when I started paying for his dinners, he was like, ‘I like this!’ “

Watson says he chose golf for its individuality, preferring to stand and fall by his own play rather than that of his teammates.

He started at the age of six, cracking shots around his back garden in Bagdad, Florida with a nine iron and a plastic golf ball until his parents bought him a full set of clubs and took him to the local course.

And his parents were uppermost in his mind after his first Masters title in 2012, whereupon he famously burst into floods of tears.

The victory came a fortnight after he had adopted Caleb, who was then a month old.

“When you look at it from the hard work that my mom and dad put into it and my dad not being there – my mom seeing her son win the Masters without her husband – and then seeing me as a new father, all the emotions came out,” says Watson.

He calls his parents great role models and although he clearly hopes to be one as well, there are certain paths he may hope his children don’t follow.

Such as taking part in a rap video dressed as a grown-up baby replete with bonnet – although to be fair, the involvement of Watson and fellow “Golf Boys” Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane was all on behalf of charity.

With gags aplenty in their rap song “2.Oh,” which followed on from 2011’s “Oh, Oh, Oh,” it was also a chance to portray golfers as a more lively bunch than many might imagine.

“If you look at the game of golf, we don’t get the highlights like other sports,” Watson contends.

“We don’t get the on-course, on-court interviews, so people can’t see our personalities. So, for us, when we came up with the Golf Boys, it’s about showing a different side.”

Music is not the only area where Watson has become a big hit online.

There’s the golf buggy hovercraft created during a collaboration with one of his sponsors, Oakley.

In the video, Watson can be seen cruising across a golf course and its water hazards, not that he particularly enjoyed the thrill.

“So you’re talking 55 miles per hour over water and I’m scared,” says Watson. “I’m a panicker. I’m a crier and I panic. I love it but I’m scared to death of it. I’m scared of everything!”

Not quite everything, of course.

For many years, he lusted after the General Lee, a true ’80s icon, and was even going to have one made until his wife blocked the move, despite having been caught on camera saying he could do precisely that.

So when one of the few cars used in the show that had survived the jumps and bumps – more than 200 stunt vehicles were used, it is estimated – came up for auction in 2012, Watson was there.

“The rumors were it was going to go for a lot of money and so I was like, ‘I’m going to raise my hand just to bid and just to say I tried, and let it keep going up, but that’s it. One bid and that’s it,’ ” he recalls.

“So I made one bid and nobody bid. So it somehow fell into my hands and I was like a kid in a candy store. That was just like winning the Masters,” he smiles.

And if you’re wondering about the key to his success at Augusta, it’s apparently very simple: Watson says the course mostly plays from left to right – and, well, he likes moving the ball from left to right.

A conversation with Watson features a lot of laughter, but there’s also some serious stuff.

And not just when talking about his dad, but also his wife.

Standing 6-foot-4-inches tall, Angie is a former professional basketballer from Canada who fronted up to her future husband on their very first date.

“I basically said, ‘Who do you see yourself with? What kind of guy?’ because there’s no reason to waste our time,” says Watson. “And she asked me what kind of girl. So we’re talking, and as the night went on, she finally just said, ‘I can’t have kids.’

“So that was our first date, which was a deep (conversation), and I’d never had a deep conversation before, so that was my first time!” he laughs.

Adoption was the answer to their problem, and this proud father of two has a quick answer to those who point out that his family expanded in 2012 and 2014 – both years he won the coveted Masters title.

“Perhaps I should adopt more.”

Read: Second Green Jacket for Watson