Bubba Watson and the Joy of Adoption

By Jeremy V. Jones
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Ben Van Hook

Bubba Watson is passionate about golf, but family is the legacy he cares about most. And adoption has made that family possible.

Bubba Watson is an emotional guy, but he’s not the first to weep on the
revered grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the annual
Masters Tournament. Since 1934, the greatest names in the sport have
stepped onto Augusta’s flowering landscape to compete for the green
jacket awarded to the winner of, arguably, golf’s most prestigious
tournament.

When Bubba Watson sank his victorious short putt on
the second hole of a sudden-death playoff in the 2012 Masters, the tears
that instantly flowed weren’t only a result of the biggest moment of his
career to that point. Bubba embraced his caddie and then his mother, but
his tears flowed for his wife, Angie, and his newly adopted son, Caleb,
back home in Florida. The adoption process was so fresh that Caleb
wasn’t yet allowed to leave his home state.

Fast forward to 2014.
After Bubba’s final putt secured his second Masters victory, tears
flowed once again as he embraced his wife and son. Then he carried Caleb
on a victory lap around the green, high-fiving fans. “All my interviews
after the first [Masters victory] were talking about him,” Bubba says.
“To win the second with him there and him able to walk on the green, it
was very special for our family. Around the same time, we started the
process to adopt our second child, so it was big for our
family.”

While Bubba is passionate about golf, family is the
legacy he cares about most. And adoption has made that family possible.
That’s why Bubba and Angie serve as spokespeople for the National
Council for Adoption and use their platform to encourage others to
consider adoption.

“Adoption is the best part of my career,” Bubba
says. “I’ve always said my trophies will rot away. God gave me golf so
we could try to change two beautiful kids’ lives.”

Adoption from the start

Bubba and Angie talked about adoption on
their first dinner date at the University of Georgia. He was a senior on
the golf team. She had just graduated after playing basketball for the
Lady Bulldogs and was preparing to head overseas to play professionally.
If they were going to date, it wouldn’t be casually. So as they talked
about goals and dreams for the future, Angie told him she was unable to
have children naturally. “Fine, there are other ways to have kids,”
Bubba said.

The couple married in 2004 and waited several years
before beginning the adoption process. From the start, it was important
to Bubba to adopt domestically. His inspiration came from playing in the
Wendy’s 3Tour Challenge, a tournament benefit for the Dave Thomas
Foundation for Adoption. “Six or seven years ago, they said there were
about 150,000 kids in the U.S. looking for homes,” Bubba says. “We felt
like we should adopt an American child because there are so many kids
looking in our own country.”

The process of becoming parents was
long and difficult; it took four years and included three near misses
when biological mothers chose other couples instead of the Watsons. “It
was heartbreaking,” Bubba says.

The couple kept praying and
trusting God for the right timing. That timing arrived in a whirlwind
that took the couple from one of their lowest points to their highest.
The Watsons had been turned down for a child on a Monday. On Tuesday
night they received a call about a 1-month-old baby boy who needed a
home: Caleb. And on Wednesday, they were accepted. They picked him up
the following Monday after quickly renting a home so they had a place to
live in Florida until the legal proceedings would allow Caleb to leave
the state. It all took place in the two weeks leading up to that first
Masters win.

In 2014, Bubba and Angie added a daughter, Dakota,
to the family by adoption.

Family life

Gerry Lester Watson Jr. got the nickname Bubba from
his father, who thought his chubby baby resembled Bubba Smith, the
former NFL player and actor best known for his role in the 1980s Police
Academy
movies. Bubba and his father were close, and the son now uses a
hot pink driver as a tribute to his father, who died of cancer in 2010.

The colorful driver also matches Bubba’s electric personality. On
the course, his fun, fearless style is known as “Bubba Golf.” There’s
seemingly no shot he won’t try or can’t pull off. Forget the safe lines;
Bubba feels his way through a course with monster drives. After all, he
is the Masters champion who has never taken a single golf
lesson.

Bubba also wears his heart on his sleeve, and his
often-lighthearted Twitter feed and frequently goofy YouTube videos have
endeared fans to him. Fun loving is just his way; and now he gets to
share the fun with his kids. He loves to golf and fish with Caleb, and
the boy has become a regular co-star in his dad’s comedic videos.
Caleb’s sister gets her share of appearances, as well.

“Our
family life is about having fun and letting [the kids] experience life,”
Bubba says. Some days that includes playing Buzz Lightyear, Batman or
hours of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

“I get to be a kid again, so it’s
really fun for me,” Bubba says.

But becoming a father has
naturally brought deeper lessons, too. It has reminded Bubba what truly
matters in life. “You realize faith should be first, then family, and
your job should be way down the list,” Bubba says. He has also learned
the importance of a father’s example. “My little boy is always watching
— Dakota’s not old enough yet — but I need to be mindful that I want him
to learn from me. I need to be a better person, a better husband, a
better dad, because he’s watching all the time.”

To those who may
be considering adoption, Bubba says, “Adoption is a beautiful thing,
especially for [those of] us who couldn’t have kids. These kids want to
be loved; they want to be helped. They did not ask to be put in their
situations; they were born into them. So why not help and watch a kid
blossom and develop into a great person?”

Jeremy V. Jones is a freelance writer. His books include Toward the Goal: The Kaká story and Triple Dog Dare.

© 2016 by Jeremy V. Jones. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Jeremy V. Jones

Jeremy V. Jones, former editor of Breakaway magazine, is the author of books, such as Walking on Water, Tribe a Warrior’s Calling, and Toward the Goal.

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