Tuesday, December 23

A Personal Encounter With a Gracious Tom Watson

Joe Nathan had two encounters with golf legend Tom Watson, one long ago and one in recent years. He told me the following story in an email and then granted permission to share it here.

By Joe Nathan

A signed hat and memorable moments with Tom Watson.
WHEN I WAS ABOUT 14, in the 1960's, I caddied for Tom Watson in an obscure tournament in Wichita, Kansas, where I grew up. Watson made it to the semifinals (it was a match-play tournament) and lost 1 up. He was having trouble sinking any putt over five feet.  As I recall, the other guy made one birdie and beat him.

A few years ago I was at a Champions Tour event in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, where I now live. It was a week or two after Watson led the British Open, but lost in the last few holes. He had kept his commitment to play in the tournament here.

I hoped to just say hi to Watson but of course he was surrounded by huge crowds. At the end of the tournament, I was walking off the course and saw the courtesy cars with several players' names. The car with Watson's name was still there so I decided to wait for a few minutes. Ten minutes later he walked toward the car, alone.

I walked up and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Watson.  I caddied you for you in Wichita, Kansas, about 40 years ago. I think it was the ... tournament. Would you please sign my hat?"

He smiled graciously.

"I remember," he said. "I lost 1 up in the semis. Could not make a putt that day. And the name of the tournament was the ... tournament."

He was right about the name, and I was wrong. Then he graciously took my hat and signed. We talked for a few minutes. I asked him a question about the remarkable chip at Pebble Beach after saying I suppose you have heard this question a 1000 times but could you please just tell me about it.

Again, he smiled and said, "Yes, lots of people have asked about it, but it's one of the favorite shots of my career. As I looked at it, I thought that I just might be able to sink it. Thanks for asking."

I am a nobody, but Tom Watson spent perhaps five or six minutes with me. He was so gracious.

Joe Nathan, an educator and newspaper columnist, loves golf. He caddied as a kid and has broken 80 once in his life.


John Merrow said...

Great story about TWO classy gentlemen (and I love the hat!!) John Merrow

Anonymous said...

Nice story, Joe, about a classy professional athlete. He missed winning the British Open at 60 years old by a wrong club selection on the last hole. Great ball striker.

John Haynes said...

Very nice story. I think Tom Watson is a classy guy who got a bad rap at the Ryder Cup. Thanks for sharing this story. It just confirms what a great guy he is.