What can Stanford learn from Bubba Watson?

For my fellow golf fans out there, watching the Masters last weekend was one of the most thrilling golf tournaments I have ever witnessed. Sure, on paper there have been more impressive and statistically boggling finishes, but one element to the story made this finish what it was: Bubba Watson.

Watson’s final round of 68 was impressive, but again, the result wasn’t what necessarily made the most commotion, but rather how he accomplished it. Watson is notorious on the PGA tour for being one of the most creative golfers of all time considering his uncanny ability to draw and fade shots at will with any club. Not only has Watson averaged the longest average drive on the tour, but he rarely hits straight shots. His unorthodox technique of constantly bending shots has enabled him to become creative. While other players may punch a shot out of the woods after a bad drive, Watson will usually hit a longer club with an insane amount of hook or slice in direction of the green.

Outside of the interest for sports, why should Stanford students (or college students in general, really) care about who Bubba Watson is as a golfer? Watson embraces the American Dream, that is, he does not mold a predisposed “fit” for a golfer, but rather sticks to the organic feel he has for his game, unorthodox as it is sometimes labeled. Even though Tiger Woods (a Stanford man) is one of the greatest golfers of all time, I find it extremely refreshing to watch a player like Bubba Watson reach up from the depths with his supposed unorthodox style of play compared to Woods, who has cycled through coaches and lost his sense of identity in his conduct on and off the course. No golf instructor or coach would ever recommend someone to play the way Watson does. Watson, the honey-badger of golf (at least with his style of play and technique…I would say the true honey badger of golf/culture is John Daly, for many good reasons), has not molded to please people, but rather to do what he enjoys, and do it the best way he knows possible. Watson grew up learning to hit shots around his house, so he naturally practiced bending the ball. If that isn’t a story of organic success, I don’t know what is.

I’m not calling out every student to go and do something unprecedented or ignore instruction or defy the norm, but rather to never forget their roots. Never forget where you came from, and never stray from what made you who you are. Many things will change in our careers and so on, but we should never forget the victories and challenges that made us who we uniquely are. Bubba Watson fully embraces that doctrine, and that is what I think we can learn from how he plays the game of golf.

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