OAKVILLE, Ont. – It is a long way from Bagdad, Florida to Pickering, Ont. No one knows that better than Bubba Watson.
Watson, the former Masters winner, has spent plenty of time in Pickering, a fact that would catch many unaware.
That’s because Watson’s wife, Angie, hails from the city, though she met the golfer while they were both at the University of Georgia.
And though once the RBC Canadian Open started today, Watson had checked into a local hotel, for the past few nights he’s been hanging with the in-laws in the Toronto suburb with Angie and their 17-month-old Caleb.
“It is like a home event and now they have the grandson,” says Watson. “They get to hang out with him. They let me be and play golf, but it is fun for me and I get to come back and be a part of the country for a little bit. We don’t get back much and with our schedules it is hard to get back here.”
Watson’s wife, whose maiden name is Ball, met the golfer when the pair were at school in Athens, Georgia.
Watson, unhappy with the lack of playing time as a senior, decided to turn pro. Angie was playing for the school’s basketball team.
“I loved playing basketball and we were playing with the ladies there and she was rehabbing,” Watson explained after his opening round at the Canadian Open, where he carded a 4-under 68 to sit high up the leaderboard.
“I overhead her talking about golf so I told her I could get us a game. She had no idea who I was – just some goofy guy who played basketball I guess. She saw the staff bag and asked if I was a pro. I told her I’d just turned pro but was still in school.”
For her part, Angie didn’t know what to expect from Watson.
“I had no idea,” she says. “People say they play golf all the time. I had no idea he was that kind of golfer. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I knew he was driven and that was something that I was attracted to because I was driven too. I never knew it would be like this.”
“Like this” means having a husband who has four PGA Tour wins, including the 2012 Masters, has played on Ryder Cup teams and is known for his idiosyncratic, home-grown swing that blasts golf balls into the stratosphere.
He currently averages more than 300 yards off the tee, and is known for his ability to bend the ball to his will, hitting massive cuts and hooks off the tee.
He may know a lot about the golf swing, but Angie admits her husband’s knowledge of Canada when they met left something to be desired.
“It was the stereotypical perspective that it was always cold up here,” she says.
“Toronto blew him away, that it was so much like New York. Now he likes coming up here – as long as he can deal with my family for a week.”
Interestingly, Watson shows up in some unexpected places when he visits the country.
The golfer is known for showing up at Bushwood, an unpretentious public golf course outside of Toronto named for the facility in the golf movie Caddy.
It might be the last place you’d expect to find a PGA Tour pro. Watson simply showed up the course one day with Angie’s father Wayne, paid the green fee and started smashing golf balls staggering distances.
He’s been back plenty of times since, shooting the course record 61.
“I’ve been there a lot,” Watson explains. “It isn’t too far from my wife’s family. As soon as I heard the name Bushwood, I knew I had to go. The logo is the gopher – and who doesn’t want to go play that. I got to know everybody there and they let me come back and practice. I’ve played there maybe 10 times. I’ve shot 61 – I have the course record. And I hit drivers everywhere – you can if you want.”
Not shockingly given the local connection, there’s lots of interest from friends of the couple and Angie’s parents to come and see Watson this week.
The couple left nearly 50 tickets at will call for Thursday, and Angie Watson admits that number could get bigger.
“That’s just a Thursday,” she says, smiling. “I imagine it’ll get bigger if he plays well coming into Sunday.”
If that happens, it won’t be just friends and family that are interested in seeing golf’s long bomber – it’ll be all of Canada.