Two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson doesn’t fit the buttoned-up image of the typical pro golfer. As one of golfing’s biggest and most popular personalities, Watson understands how to keep the sport interesting. He can thrill fans with a long birdie putt on 18 and entertain a non-golf audience with wild and wacky videos on his TikTok account. But no matter the means, his goal is simple: Help grow the game of golf.
We recently caught up with Watson following the Waste Management Phoenix Open—one of the first pro golf tournaments to see the return of (limited) fans in attendance—to discuss playing without the crowds, his apparel partnership with Linksoul, and more.
Men’s Journal: The fans returned in Phoenix, but what has it been like playing without them?
Bubba Watson: It’s strange for professional golfers because no fans means no energy. It’s amazing how much different a golf tournament feels with fans.
It’s mind-blowing that it’s that big of difference, but we all feel it. We’ve all talked about it and see it and feel it. You wake up early, hit balls, and then it’s time to play late in the afternoon––that little bit of energy from the crowd is like a shot in the arm.
And not only for me doing good, but when you hear other people getting cheers, it excites you. It’s like, ‘Oh there’s something going on, there’s birdies or chip-ins happening, that means I can do that too.’
It did change something that I didn’t imagine, but it’s definitely there. So it was awesome to have fans back out there [in Phoenix].
You have a great social media presence, and you’ve even jumped into the world of TikTok videos. What made you want to do TikTok? Have you gotten any other pro golfers to collab with you?
Forget the other pros, I’m trying to get famous people to collab so I can get more followers [laughing].
But it’s been fun for me, and it just entertains me and makes me energetic. It’s also about, how are you going to grow the game? There’s probably a lot more non-golfers on TikTok than golfers, so hopefully it’s helping to grow the game a little bit.
Golf can be very serious. Do you think it’s important to try to bring some fun and lightheartedness into the sport?
The pandemic helped out golf tremendously, right? More people are out playing golf because they can get out of their house and get on the golf course. But when you think about professional golf and getting people interested in growing the game for years to come, we need a lot more young people involved.
And how do you do that? I don’t know the answer for how to grow the game the right way. But I know that making fun of the sport or making goofy videos is definitely one thing to get people watching who normally don’t watch. So that’s my take on it. If I help a few more people jump into the game, then obviously I did a little bit to help.
Youth golf is also very important to you. How are you working to get more kids into golf?
When I played junior golf, I won this one tournament in Florida called the Divot Derby from age eight to age 17. 10 years I won it––every age group, every year. So now I’m the head sponsor of it and helping that along.
It’s just about getting kids to play the game of golf. Maybe there’ll be guys and girls better than Bubba Watson. They’ll be four-time Masters Champions. But it’s beyond playing professional golf: Just think about all of the charity golf tournaments out there. Every kind of business has a charity golf tournament. So just getting them involved with the game of golf is going to change and impact their lives for years and years to come.
You recently partnered up with golf fashion icon John Ashworth and invested in his apparel company, Linksoul. What about that brand made it such a good fit for you?
Normally companies would pay me to wear their stuff, but seeing John’s vision and where Linksoul is going, I actually sought them out and wanted to be a part of the brand.
I love what they stand for, both from the business side and from the charity dollars going towards helping grow the game. And then I thought about my junior golf programs in Pensacola, Florida. It’s kind of like, we’re on different sides of the country, but we’re doing the same things. We’re growing the game our way. His passion, his heart––he lets that lead. And the same thing with me, I let the passion of certain things in my heart lead.
So as this partnership grows and deepens, we will collab not only from the clothing brand standpoint, but also to do some great things for junior golf––that’s what we’re both looking at. So that’s why this is a long-term partnership. I’m an investor, I’m a partner.
The Linksoul brand is a bit different from other golf brands in that it represents a broader lifestyle beyond golf. How does this match up with your own interests?
This is a lifestyle that can fit in every adventure in your life. And that’s what I wanted—to feel comfortable everywhere I go and not feel like I’m overdressed or underdressed. I bought into what they’re trying to create, not just golf, but lifestyle in general.
My whole family loves wake surfing and we have a fishing boat as well, so we love going out and being on the water. I’m also a basketball nut and now I own an AA baseball team. I’m not just a golfer, not just a businessman—I do it all. I’m all over the map in sports.
How does Linksoul align with your goals for generating interest in golf?
With Linksoul, we’re trying to create an atmosphere. In general, Linksoul is golf but it also includes different activities like surfing and yoga. It’s going to bring other people into the outdoors.
I’ve been doing this for years and now I’ve finally gotten to partner with Ash and do some fun things. Hopefully the brand keeps growing, because that means the charity side of it and the growth of the game from the junior side continues as well.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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