Pensacola, FL. - On Easter Sunday, a 33-year old player named Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. Better known as Bubba, slipped on the green jacket as the 2012 Masters champion after defeating Louis Oosthuizen on the second hole of a playoff.
Watson, from the small community of Bagdad, FL. located near Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle. Is just another PGA Tour player that has come out of this small area of the panhandle, that continues to produce world class talent across all sports.
The North West Florida, Pensacola, Milton and surrounding areas, has a population of just under 500,000 residents.
Though from this small section of the Sunshine State. There has steamed 22 PGA Tour victories and 2 major championships.
Not to mention, eight Super Bowl rings, two World Series Rings, boxing World Champion in six divisions, NCAA Football National Champion, as well as several Hall of Fame players in football, baseball and boxing.
Some athletes from the Pensacola area include: Emmitt Smith, Derrick Brooks, Fred Robbins, Cortland Finnegan, Lawrence Tynes, Trent Richardson, Roy Jones Jr., Travis Fryman, Jay Bell, Don Sutton, Nick Green, Jerry Pate, Bubba Watson, Joe Durant, Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum and Michelle Snow.
In golf, this area's 22 PGA Tour wins include; Bubba Watson (4 wins and 2012 Masters), Jerry Pate (8 wins, 1976 US Open & 1974 US Amateur), Heath Slocum (4 wins), Joe Durant (4 wins) and Boo Weekley (2 wins) on the PGA Tour.
Being a resident of this area, I have seen these guys first hand playing at local golf courses, tournaments and on local mini tours over the past 10 years.
One of the longest two mini tours in the North West Florida area is the Emerald Coast Golf Tour and the Gulf Coast Scratch Tour (now the Miller Lite Scratch Tour).
Though not around when Pate was coming up. These two tours saw Watson, Durant, Slocum, Durant and Weekley compete on them.
These players honed their now PGA Tour talent, on these tours, working hard, grinding it out check to check, before they made their ways to the big tour.
I recently found a photo of Watson from 2004, just after he won the Emerald Coast Golf Tour's, Fall Championship Pro/Am. -- He was holding the winner's check of $4,000.
That was a mere eight years ago for Watson. The checks are certainly larger these days on the PGA Tour.
Though he and other PGA Tour players from our area have moved onwards and upwards in the world of professional golf. None have forgot where they came from and where all the hard work they put in to their games was crafted.
Weekley holds a charity tournament every year since being on the PGA Tour. This year's event will be held at a local golf course in Navarre, FL. Hidden Creek.
Pate, the 1976 U.S. Open Champion, has set up shop with his company, Jerry Pate Golf right here in Pensacola as well.
As you can see, this small area of North West Florida has produced some huge talent across all facets of sports.
Golf however, has found it's way to the top of the leader board in the past 10 years.