Every once in awhile, professional and parental achievements become inextricably linked.That happened last April when Bubba Watson won the Masters Tournament just 13 days after he and his wife, Angie, had adopted their 1-month-old son, Caleb.
Learning of the two life-altering events, Watson’s clothing designer Travis Mathew – who had teamed with the golfer to raise money for charity – felt compelled to fashion a miniature replica of Watson’s white Masters Sunday outfit, complete with a little green jacket, for the newest member of the Watson family. It seemed a fitting tribute.
“When the final putt went in and he won, the only thing I could think about was ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to be able to tell our son that his daddy won the Masters the week that we adopted him,’” said Angie, who watched on television with Caleb falling asleep on her shoulder. “That thought just came to the forefront.”
Watson admits being “scared to death” last spring, but it had nothing to do with chasing down Louis Oosthuizen on the final nine at Augusta National Golf Club and winning the Masters on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. His fears came the week before when he and his wife stuffed a rented SUV full of frantically bought baby gear and high-tailed it down the Florida Turnpike to meet their son.
“Going to meet this woman and lawyers and all these people, and literally they’re going to hand Caleb to us,” said Watson, who hit the road immediately after finishing fourth at Bay Hill. “Scared to death. I think it’s the best tournament I played in because I didn’t even remember finishing fourth. I was so worried about getting this child.”
Twice before that year the Watsons had adoptions fall through, so they took nothing for granted. This time, however, the birth mother had chosen them from a stack of prospective parents.
But like expectant parents unwilling to make announcements in the first trimester, Watson didn’t want anyone to know. He had considered withdrawing from Bay Hill when they got the phone call on the eve of the tournament, but pulling out after finishing runner-up in his previous start at Doral would only invite questions he wasn’t ready to answer.
The Watsons officially had started the adoption process four years earlier, but in truth it began on their first date – at least if you accept Bubba’s version of the story.
The subject of children rarely comes up on a first date, and Angie claims she didn’t open with that ice-breaker in 2001.
“That’s debatable because I think it was actually our second date,” she said. “Our first date was a round of golf, but apparently in the world of professional golf, playing golf is not a date. But I think spending four hours on a golf course with somebody you just met and you’re attracted to is a date in my book.”
Regardless of the semantics, Watson and Angie Ball hit it off immediately. The 6-foot-3 Georgia golfer had his eye on the 6-foot-4 Bulldog basketball player for more than a year but lacked the courage to make the first move. When Ball returned to Athens to rehab what turned out to be a career-ending knee injury with the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, she ran into him playing pickup basketball with her old teammates.
After the disputed “date” on Watson’s turf, she shared with him the fact that she could not bear children in case it was a deal-breaker.
“We were at that point in our lives when you start dating you don’t date just to date,” she said. “We had those conversations about what we thought our futures entailed so I shared that with him.”
Watson delivered what turned out to be the perfect response.