Since bursting onto the PGA stage in 2006, Bubba has always received acclaim for his long drives—he led the PGA Tour that year in driving distance (319.6 yards)—but critics accused him of being too creative and trying to do too much with the ball. With no professional training, they thought he didn’t have what it took to win a golf tournament.
Bubba proved them wrong by winning the Masters golf tournament in 2012, the Travellers Championship in 2010, the Farmers Insurance Open this past January and the Zurich Classic in May.
“The Bible says if you’re trying to be Christlike, it doesn’t matter what others say; you don’t need to worry about that. I knew if it was God’s plan for me to be on the PGA Tour, He would help me do it. It’s been working out so far and it will until He has a different plan for me. I just need to believe in Him.”
But a shadow hung over his achievements on the course.
A Caddie’s Ultimatum
Bubba’s temper was infamous. He was known to curse and throw clubs when a shot misfired and he even yelled at fellow golfer Steve Elkington during a tournament in 2008 for walking during his backswing.
His anger on the course was so out of control that his caddie told him if he didn’t calm down, he would quit.
Caddie Ted Scott’s ultimatum was the turning point for Bubba. Where many a golfer might have continued down that self-destructive path, Bubba took stock of his life. A good caddie is key to any golfer’s success and Bubba never considered letting him go.
“I knew I was acting immature between the ropes,” Bubba says now. “I was having fun off the golf course but I wasn’t happy on it. For him to say that to me, knowing he might be walking away from a steady paycheque, that hit home. I knew he was right, and I had to come up with a new mindset.”
The fact that Ted was a fellow Christian, as was Bubba’s wife, Angie, and his trainer, Andrew Fisher, was no small consideration, either. “My team believes in the same thing,” he says. “I wasn’t setting an example to them, or to my fans.”
Bubba knew he couldn’t control his anger on his own.
“I’d get so frustrated, because I have this competitive fire going on the course,” Bubba explains. “So I reread my Bible. I realized after a close examination of people like Abraham, King David
and the Apostle Paul that we all have setbacks, but God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle. The Bible is my mental coach now. And after discussions with different pastors, I’ve figured out that’s what works best for me.”
Bubba’s tantrums have been replaced by what many have termed Bubba Golf. Sports Illustrated has called him “golf’s ultimate feel player.” Tom Edrington of The Bleacher Report defined this mentality as “go for it, forget about all this mechanics stuff and just play some golf.” And golf great Nick Faldo has said, “Bubba just sees a shot and manufactures it. Nothing technical.” Bubba agrees with them and adds, “I don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. It’s just me having fun.”
Winning With Purpose
The flip side to the fun-loving Bubba is the serious Christian concerned for others. His Twitter profile reads, “Christian, husband, pro golfer who enjoys giving back to help others grow in life!” The charities he supports include Birdies for the Brave, a military outreach initiative supported by the PGA, The First Tee of Northwest Florida, an organization that promotes character development in the young, and the Ronald McDonald House in Pensacola, Florida.
“It’s an honour to help the organizations I am a part of, so winning those tournaments in January and May helped me keep helping,” says Bubba. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m competitive and I play to win but the most important thing is being able to help those in need.”