When Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack saw the view from the TV cameras panning out on Bubba Watson’s shot from the pine straw Sunday, he knew the former Georgia golfer had nothing to worry about.
“When (assistant coach Jim Douglas) and I saw that angle, we both agreed that shot was meant for Bubba,” Haack said of Watson’s second playoff hole on No. 10 at Augusta National Golf Club. “That shot, that angle, was his bread and butter. He’s hit that shot a zillion times.”
Surely enough, Watson’s shot hooked 40 yards to land on the green. Two putts later, he became the first major champion from the Bulldogs’ program.
The program already had a storied history, with two NCAA team championships and an individual title, and former Bulldogs golfer Bryden Macpherson, who fell short of making the Masters cut as an amateur, won a British Amateur championship last summer.
“For him to be the first (University of) Georgia guy to win the Masters, to even win a major, that means so much to the golf program here,” said Georgia golfer Nicholas Reach, who arrived at Haack’s watch party as the final group turned onto the second nine. “It really gives us something big to look forward to.”
Watson, from Bagdad, Fla., played at Faulkner State Community College in Alabama before transferring to Georgia, where he had a sometimes-tense relationship with his coaches.
The group patched up its differences a few years ago, and Haack said it was as emotional as watching a family member play Sunday.
As the day progressed, more members of that family arrived at Haack’s home. By the time Watson birdied four in a row beginning with No. 13, Haack’s home theater room was getting louder and his phone was getting busier.
“When it started getting real close, my phone was just blowing up with texts and phone calls,” he said. “I almost just had to turn it off so we could watch.”
Few current Georgia golfers have met Watson, whose wife, Angie, is a former Georgia basketball player.
Reach said they have long rooted for Watson, however, and were inspired by the Masters victory.
“For me, things like this drive me to work so much harder on my golf game,” Reach said. “I mean, how cool would it be if I was a Masters champion one day?
“There’s a guy I don’t know personally, but I know so much about him from coach Haack and coach Douglas and from him being here, and to see him come from this program and win the Masters, it’s just amazing.
“I think a lot of us can take something from that.”