Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When Bubba's Eyes Are Crying

I’m not sure why the event of Bubba Watson’s victory at Augusta on Easter Sunday has gotten all up inside me. When he hooked that wedge (or whatever iron it was) 30+ yards off those pine needles and onto that evil 10th green, my body left the easy chair. The fact that it stopped so absurdly close to the pin was miraculous. Several tedious minutes later his 2 putts found the cup and he had accomplished something very few human beings have ever done. And that’s when this event took an emotional turn for me and, I suspect, many others.
Bubba Watson is not a country club kid. He is not, in the current despicable parlance of our culture, a product of the 1%. Bubba Watson is a public school kid, an average Joe whose dad was military and whose mom was determined to keep the family on track. He was not privileged to everyday golf lessons at a well-groomed, gated facility in the exclusive parts of Florida. In fact, he never had a lesson. This sets him apart from so many we have come to understand as “The Golf Set” in America. Surely this is part of the story. Bubba’s is an unorthodox game with a swing that seems to change dramatically based on the end result he desires. He can move the ball in any direction quite significantly: towering fades, low hooks and the occasional, dreaded straight ball. He is not unique in this ability but he demonstrates it regularly and with little fanfare. He putts well (or he would not be wearing a green jacket) and his on-course demeanor is easy on the eye. Significant immediately following his victory was the number of other players that were there to greet him at the end of the round. When do you remember seeing that happen during a regular tour event, let alone The Masters? (Of course, I didn’t see Mickelson or Woods there). That speaks volumes about Bubba’s personality. His peers, comrades and competitors hold him in high esteem. But enough of that. When he sank that mini-putt and captured The Masters’ Championship he was overcome with emotion. Far be it from me to analyze what was going through his mind. Memories of his father, thoughts of his brand new child, love for his wife and mother, friendships, the journey, his pals? Yes, I suspect all of this and more. But hell, for a sport so veiled in propriety, so intensely focused on the individual, so steeped in tradition, so buttoned-down and exclusive, this was a most refreshing turn of events. When I saw—and the world saw—what this meant to this man, I wept with him. When I forced myself to weather the arrogant storms of Piers Morgan just to see Bubba again, I wept with him. When I walked through the minefield of the absurdly-hard-to-watch “Morning Joe” just to see Bubba, I cried with him. It’s funny, I never became emotional watching Nicklaus, Mickelson, Woods, Miller, Player, Strange, Faldo, Crenshaw, Love or most of the other masters of the game. They seemed distant to me, as if they had spent far too much time on the range working on every detail, every angle and every subtle inch. Not so with Bubba Watson. This guy is playing golf—a game he learned on his own—and having fun, honoring those he loves and…winning with tears in his eyes. That’s a man in my book.


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