There is a golf course in suburban Toronto that will soon be making an addition to its Wall of Fame. It is dedicated to its unofficial, visiting touring professional.
Newly crowned Masters champion Bubba Watson, from Bagdad, Fla., and Bushwood Golf Club in Markham, Ont., appear to have little in common on the surface. But more than a decade ago, Bushwood managing director Mary Evelyn was alerted to an out-of-town visitor lighting up the family-run golf course.
"Somebody just shot 61," Evelyn recalled someone telling her.
"Sure they did."
Evelyn went to investigate and the first evidence of the talented interloper was his University of Georgia golf bag. Further investigation revealed a tall golfer in his early 20s with a subtle Southern accent who went by the decidedly unsubtle name of "Bubba."
Indeed, it was Bubba Watson playing the course that day. He was in the area visiting with his girlfriend, Angie Ball, and her parents, Loretta and Wayne, who remain Bushwood regulars and reside in nearby Pickering, Ont..
Back then, Watson was just wrapping up his career at the University of Georgia. It was there he met Angie, a collegiate basketball player. Coincidently, Evelyn once attended the school and played golf at Georgia as well, which could help explain why the connection has endured for more than a decade.
From there, Watson embarked on the winding road that is professional golf, landing full-time on the PGA Tour in 2006. Ball had her own pro basketball career, playing in Europe, in the WNBA and on the Canadian national team before injuries forced her to retire.
Angie and Bubba were married in 2004 and, though the visits to her parents -- as well as Bushwood -- continue, they aren't as frequent given the demands of the PGA Tour schedule. The couple is notable because both Angie and Bubba are 6-foot-4, but with decidedly different physical appearances. Aside from a penchant for wearing visors, Bubba looks a bit like the guy who may be attending the door at a local tavern, while Angie looks every bit the elegant tour wife (even if she towers over them). The couple recently adopted a baby boy, Caleb, a fact widely reported in the aftermath of Watson's Masters win.
The Watsons haven't been through Bushwood for a couple of summers, in part because he hasn't played the RBC Canadian Open since 2009. However, the connection between Bubba and Bushwood remains strong. He has an instruction portal on the golf club's website and the club's mascot was named "Little Bubba" a few years ago.
"I got a call a few weeks ago to say that Bubba did an interview with David Feherty and he was wearing a Bushwood shirt," Evelyn said.
Soon after Watson started establishing himself as a solid PGA Tour player, Bushwood began stocking its Wall of Fame in his honour and now Evelyn and the rest of her team are anxious to see what Masters swag can be added.
Like everyone who witnessed Watson's stirring playoff win at Augusta National with any sort rooting interest, Evelyn was still beaming with pride a couple of days after.
"He is just such a genuine person," she said. "You really saw that in his acceptance speech and everyone has always seen that from him since we first started seeing him [here].
"He and Angie and her parents are all just wonderful people."
Prodded for further evidence of Watson's personality, Evelyn recounted: "He was here and he asked [Angie] what her favourite hockey team was. She [confirmed] it was the [Toronto] Maple Leafs and, before you know it, there he was buying these hockey-stick putters with the Leafs logo on them.
"They have them down in Florida now."
Even though Evelyn and Bushwood regulars have been familiar with Watson for years, Evelyn thinks that his common touch and no-frills personality is important for the wider golf world to see.
"People talk about Tiger [Woods] and how he has inspired people of different races," she said. "Bubba is an inspiration, too.
"Our sport can really be [intimidating] for people. And here you have a guy who has never taken a lesson winning the Masters ... it's really good to see."
And in case you're wondering, Watson's Bushwood course record still stands.
"It won't be touched," predicted Evelyn.
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