Watson discusses the impact of floods in West Virginia
June 28, 2016
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Bubba Watson spends four or five months each year at Greenbrier and has pledged to donate $250,000 to the relief effort in West Virginia. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
AKRON, Ohio -- Bubba Watson, his wife Angie and their two young children were lucky.
They lost power for nearly four days, prompting Watson to post pictures on Facebook of 4-year-old Caleb cooking breakfast and heating pots of water on a charcoal grill. But their summer home nestled in the West Virginia mountains, overlooking The Greenbrier, escaped any significant damage when the cataclysmic rains arrived on Thursday.
Their good fortune doesn't mean the Watsons weren't affected by the devastation wrought by what weather professionals called a "once-in-a-thousand-years'" rain. Profoundly affected.
"I've been through some hurricanes, but I've never seen something like this," said Watson, who grew up in the Florida Panhandle.
Nearly two dozen people were killed and more than 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the floods, which came roaring through the foothills as up to a foot of rain fell in a matter of hours. A reported 70 businesses were completely destroyed.
The Greenbrier, the luxury resort where Watson spends four or five months each year, has closed its doors to the public until further notice, opening only to shelter some of the victims, and the PGA TOUR canceled the tournament scheduled to be played there next week. The TOUR is making a $100,000 donation to the relief effort and the Watsons have pledged $250,000.
"These are people that I see every day at the hotel, at the golf courses working, and now they have nothing," Watson said. "It's very devastating, but it grows a community together."
Watson is haunted by the stories he's heard about parents having to break windows in their homes so they could get their children out of the rising water. He saw a house, separated from its foundation, lodged under a bridge. He watched in shock as a house floated down the street, the gas fire burning on its second floor creating an incongruous image on TV.
"Then when the water subsided in some areas, you could see car seats and different things, just little kids' flip-flops, just sadness all over the place," Watson said.
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Watson had gotten to his home in White Sulphur Springs on the Monday afternoon before the flood. He had tied for 51st at the U.S. Open the previous week and attended a media day for the Travelers Championship, where he will defend a title for the second time in August.
Intermittent thunderstorm and tornado warnings followed the next two days, but nothing to prepare anyone for the devastation to come. Watson, in fact, had set out on a fishing trip early Thursday morning but turned back when it wouldn't stop raining.
"It happened fast," Watson said. "It was just overwhelming, the stories and stuff. You don't even think anything of it, and then the next thing you know I looked out over my house and the golf course was flooded in front of me."
The next day, as the flood waters began to subside and the true measure of the damage became evident, Watson was in Jim Justice's office, asking how he could help. His truck and brand new Jeep have been put to good use in recent days as Angie delivers supplies to those who need it most.
"We get blinded sometimes of how lucky we are," watson said. "I get mad at a three-putt. So it just hit home, the way I want to live my life and try to live my life. This is God giving me the advantage to help in different ways."
Angie, who plans to spend Wednesday shoveling mud out of damaged houses, encouraged her husband to go to play in this week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and spread the word. Watson's been in Akron since Saturday night, his wife holding down the fort and fielding phone calls in West Virginia with their two children.
"(She said) we can't donate time, money and energy if you're not playing golf," Watson said. "... This is my voice."
And that voice has resonated with Watson's peers on the PGA TOUR. Do the victims need bottled water? How many cases can I send? What about clothes and toys for the children? What can I send to help now?
"It's been amazing," Watson said. "I'm not even affected by it. I'm affected by my peers, people that I live by, people that I know that work in these communities.
"It's amazing to see the support from PGA TOUR players that have played in that event, know how great those people are, know how great West Virginia is, know how great Jim Justice is to want to help."