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Golf Superstar on “Imperfectly” Following God’s Call

He’s one of golf’s biggest names-Bubba Watson. This two-time Masters champion is known for his long drives and exciting personality. In his new book “Up & Down,” Bubba discusses balancing celebrity, family life, and trying imperfectly to follow God’s call. 

Bubba says, “That’s the reason why I wanted to come out with the book is to share and to share that we all have issues.  And if you say you don’t you really do. Right? Like, let’s be honest with everybody.”

Not just a golfer, Bubba owns an ice cream shop, a car dealership, a driving range, and has even become part owner of a minor league baseball team.

Will Dawson: Let’s start with your love of baseball. You wanted to become a Major League Baseball pitcher.

Bubba: Yeah, it started with my dad being a Yankees fan. Don Mattingly was the first baseman, left-handed and I was left-handed. So I wanted to be like Don Mattingly, Mr. Baseball. But I also wanted to pitch. A few years after that golf started.

He grew up in small town Bagdad, Florida. It was evident early on that Bubba had a gift for golf.  

“I started tournament golf at age eight,” says Bubba. “I started hitting it past everybody. People started talking to my family about how far I could hit it. You know, no lessons. As it grew when I got to around twelve years old, you could definitely see my skill level was different from other people. That’s when it started, the buzz in my head that, ‘Wait. I have a shot at this. I can be pretty good at this.’”

Bubba accepted a golf scholarship to the University of Georgia. It was there he met his now wife, Angie, who had an immediate impact on his desire to follow God.

“We started talking about church,” says Bubba. “She grew up in the church and who she wanted to be and she asked me about my faith. I told her it was very little. I told her one day I got asked to go to church, I gave myself to the Lord, but then that was it. The seed was planted. I said the right things, but I didn’t really water it and when I got to Georgia and met her, that’s when it really opened up. And I’m still growing in that, but it’s been an amazing journey and the rest is history. 20 years later and we’re still together.”

During those twenty years, the Watsons endured some trying times including the inability to conceive a child.

Bubba says, “When your wife looks at you and says, ‘Why can’t I be a mom?’ And that’s a hard thing to answer. And again, God’s timing is way better.”

In “God’s timing,” 2012, the couple adopted a baby boy named Caleb and knew immediately he was a gift from God.  

Bubba recalls, “The lady asked, the first thing she asked was, ‘Are you going to change his name?’ And man, you talk about trying to get words out of your mouth. I said, ‘No!’ She said I think his name…it’s a great story in the Bible. And I said, ‘Yes ma’am!’  I said ‘I would never change his name because of the blessing you are giving us.’”

Just two weeks later, after becoming a father, Bubba won arguably golf’s most prestigious tournament…the Masters.

From an outsider’s perspective, Bubba Watson had it all. He had won the 2012 Masters, he had a growing family, and a loving fan base. But beneath the surface the pressure was just beginning to build.

Severe bouts of anxiety caused Bubba to become withdrawn and fearful.  He even lost thirty pounds.

Will Dawson: You thought you were going to die.

Bubba: Yeah. I felt like it could easily be it. I look at the scale and I’m 162 and just fall on my knees and I’m bawling and I said, ‘Take me. I don’t want to go through this.’ Praying, ‘Just take me. What am I supposed to do? What do you want me to do with my life?’ I was like, ‘I’ll quit golf. If this is what’s going to cause me to be this way, I’m done with golf. I’d rather be physically healthy than out.’ That’s kind of what got me off the ground, is thinking about, if God appeared to me right now and said you have ten minutes....am I going to sit here and pout about it or am I going to get up and do something about it?

Bubba continues to grow in his relationship with God even through moments he says he’s not proud of.

“There’s one particular moment that I can remember where I said some choice words and got caught on camera and my team hit me fast,” he says. “And I went into the media center and they asked me right away. They said, ‘your language. You call yourself a Christian.’ I said ‘I want to thank ya’ll. I want to thank ya’ll because that’s how I get better. If you don’t call me out, I can’t get better.’ We’re all going to have moments. Younger days I wouldn’t have done it that way. But since ’10 when I won and going forward and more wins after that, it just means I’m put on a bigger pedestal, a bigger spotlight where I have to be ready to face my bad moments in a different way.”

Will Dawson: The Bible talks about iron sharpening iron and it sounds like you had a really good team surrounding you and that’s important in the Christian life as well.

Bubba: Oh, 100 percent! Again, I praise my wife all the time. Without meeting her it wouldn’t have jumpstarted me to get me back to where I should be. Then the close team around me and my close friends. The different pastors that I’ve been able to meet. They’ve been able to put wisdom into me. Now it takes me a slow time to learn that wisdom, but it’s growing.

Will Dawson: You’ve been very generous with your time and with your money. Why is that important to you?

Bubba: When you start listening and learning about the gospel, learning about the Bible, you want to give back. On my death bed I don’t want my kids to go on the podium and be like ‘he was two-time Master’s champion.’ If they say that, I’ve already missed. I’ve missed everything I was supposed to do. I’ve been blessed so much, why not bless other people?

 

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