Watson driving for show, and dough, to fight cancer

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For every drive Bubba Watson hits over 300 yards, Ping will donate $300 to a cancer-related charity.
January 24, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- When Bubba Watson was playing the mini-tours, surveying the dollar menu at fast food restaurants and sleeping in cheap hotels, he still managed to scrape together $2,000 to help a friend put on a women's golf tournament at the University of West Florida.

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Watson, whose wife Angie played professional basketball, continued to support that tournament in Pensacola, Fla., for the next eight years. "I know (women's sports) don't have a big platform so I felt like I needed to do it," he said. "I just felt like I should do it."

Over the years, Watson, who is best-know for his big drives and laid-back personality, has done a wealth of other good deeds.

He donated $50,000 last year to aid the relief effort for the earthquake in Japan. He ran a junior golf tournament in North Carolina last year that raised $25,000 for Victory Junction Gang Camp, which gives seriously ill children a chance to go to summer camp. He honors the legacy of his late father, a former Green Beret, by supporting military charities like Birdies for the Brave, and spending time with Navy Seals like he did on Monday.

But Watson has never been involved with anything quite like the "Bubba & Friends: Drive to a Million" campaign he's launching this week as he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Watson sees this push to fight cancer as a group effort. His sponsors are on board. He hopes his "Twitter friends" and the people he's met playing golf around the world will get involved on a local level, too.

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"I couldn't do it on my own," Watson said. "I don't have $1 million to give away. My friends, sponsors, we're all trying to team up and raise $1 million -- and for a guy from Bagdad, Fla., named Bubba that's a pretty big accomplishment. Even if we raise a half million this year it's still half a million."

Watson came to his pre-tournament interview carrying a Ping driver with a pink shaft and set it on the table in front of him. Nothing new there. Watson has always played with a pink-shafted driver. This one, though, is a shade brighter, hot pink, if you will, and the head is also the same color. He plans to play with the attention-getting club all year.

Watson has had the driver since before the Presidents Cup but he just started practicing with it two weeks ago. Prior to Tuesday's practice round, only 5-10 people had even seen the club.

For every drive Watson hits over 300 yards, Ping will donate $300 to a cancer-related charity. The equipment manufacturer has already ponied up $10,000 to start Drive to a Million, and Ping has made 50 other hot pink driver heads. Watson says they're not sure whether those other drivers will be sold or donated to charity auctions.

Travis Matthews, Watson's clothing sponsor, plans outfits for the major championships with hot pink on them -- not unlike the manufacturer did several years with a camoflauge-theme. Then fans can go to the store and buy the clothes, and Watson said the proceeds will be donated, as well.

Giving back
Making a positive impact in communities where PGA TOUR tournaments are held and players live has always been an essential element of the PGA TOUR. To read more about how the TOUR and its players gives back, click here. See more about how Bubba Watson gives back to the community as well.

"This is not just about me trying to win golf tournaments or win a major," Watson said. "But if I won Augusta this year it would be great but how many drives (did I hit) over 300. How many outfits did we sell? That's really the big thing. That's what I want to be about. That's what I've been trying to be about.

"Now I finally have a platform with three wins that people actually care about this."

Watson decided not to form a foundation because he didn't want the administrative costs to take away money that would otherwise be going to the charity. So don't send the money to him. But if you give $10 to your local American Cancer Society or support someone in a charity walk, tweet him or go on his Facebook page and let Watson know.

There is a "tracker" on bubbawatson.com that will keep a record of the progress Watson and all his friends are making toward the goal.

"My dad died of throat cancer, so I asked everyone to help fight cancer in their local area," Watson said. "I want people to donate their time, money and efforts to charity," Watson said. "Like this golf tournament. This golf tournament can't run without volunteers. So I am not telling people what to do with their money -- just to get out of the house and help charities around the world."

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