The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

April 14, 2014

Bubba’s victory thrilling for Justice

Greenbrier resort now associated with 10 Masters wins

It now takes both hands to count The Greenbrier’s green jackets.

Bubba Watson’s Masters win Sunday gave the White Sulphur Springs resort its 10th green jacket.

The late Sam Snead, The Greenbrier’s former pro and pro emeritus, won the Masters three times (1949, 1952 and 1954). Current pro emeritus Tom Watson won two (1977, 1981), and Greenbrier Sporting Club resident Nick Faldo, whose name is now on The Greenbrier’s golf instruction center, won three (1989, 1990 and 1996). Now “the other Watson” has a pair (2012 and 2014).

“That’s amazing when you think about it,” said Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, who watched nearly every second of Watson’s win Sunday, cheering for his close friend. “The Greenbrier transcends so far beyond any of us. The people that have walked the halls are unbelievable. To think about 10 green jackets in one place is unbelievable.”

Watson’s association with The Greenbrier is a fairly short one. The 35-year-old Florida native first visited the resort last June, coming a few days early to prepare for The Greenbrier Classic. He immediately fell in love with all the property had to offer — falconry, swimming, off-roading and, of course, golf — and almost immediately began looking for a place to build a home.

Soon, his land was selected, and in late August The Greenbrier and Watson announced a new partnership.

Since that time, Watson has displayed The Greenbrier logo on his Ping golf bag at every tournament, and he has become an ambassador for the resort, joining Tom Watson, Kenny Perry and Webb Simpson in that role.

The Greenbrier has renamed its back tees on The Old White TPC the “Bubba Tees,” giving golfers who break 90 from those tees a chance to enter a raffle to play a round with Watson.

“He really, really loves The Greenbrier and loves the people,” said Justice. “He plans to be here a lot. We’ve become really close friends, as he has with a lot of people here.

“I’m so happy for him. His little boy (Caleb) going out on that 18th green (to greet his dad after the win), how can it get any better than that?

“I really believe he can do more with a golf club than anybody that I can ever recall seeing. But not only that, he’s a really class person. It couldn’t happen to a better young man and better family. They’re really special.”

The Watsons’ next stop may be in West Virginia. Justice — who said he’s texted back-and-forth with Watson all week, including one he sent this afternoon that read, ‘Just go be Bubba and get ready to put that second (green jacket) on for all of us,’ — said Watson’s plans, before the victory, were to fly to Greenbrier County today and stay at The Greenbrier through Easter with Caleb and his wife, Angie. Justice said media and sponsorship requirements could change those plans, but he still expects the Watsons to come see their new home, which is nearly complete, for the first time this week.

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Justice was also proud of 2013 Greenbrier Classic champion Jonas Blixt, who finished his first Masters at 5-under, tied for second with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth.

Blixt, a 29-year-old Sweden native, has played in just three major tournaments in his career. Along with Sunday’s second-place finish, he came in fourth at the 2013 PGA Championship and 26th at last year’s British Open.

“He’s a really great player,” said Justice. “None of us realized what caliber of player he really is. He’s a good young man, and to be able to stand up under that pressure and tie for second, there’s not many people who can pull that off.

“We’ve all thought, wouldn’t it be great if Tiger or Phil or a really big name could win the Classic, but what we’re seeing is a changing of the guard. I’m sure our older superstars will still have wins, but you’re seeing some new stars on the PGA Tour.”

Blixt, who qualified for The Masters by winning The Greenbrier Classic, said he learned a great deal from his first Masters experience and expects to make another run at a green jacket in the future.

“I have a lot more new experiences, and I can’t wait to come back,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to play out there. I learned something new at Augusta National every day, and every pin position is unique. It’s a tough test.”

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Both Watson and Blixt are expected to be part of the field at this year’s Greenbrier Classic, which will be played July 3-6 on The Old White TPC Course at The Greenbrier.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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