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Watson, Wahoos disc golf all aces in Pensacola

Golfer builds course to provide outdoor activity for community
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson became a part-owner of the Blue Wahoos in 2015. (Daniel Venn/Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
@brianjstultz
May 27, 2020

With Pensacola's Blue Wahoos Stadium remaining mostly vacant during the pandemic, team president Jonathan Griffith was searching for some way, any way, to use the facility. He decided to reach out to a familiar name: Bubba Watson. "It was one of those things that for us is what can we

With Pensacola's Blue Wahoos Stadium remaining mostly vacant during the pandemic, team president Jonathan Griffith was searching for some way, any way, to use the facility.

He decided to reach out to a familiar name: Bubba Watson.

"It was one of those things that for us is what can we do?" Griffith said. "Like everybody else, we were brainstorming of how do you activate the stadium, and one of the things that came up was disc golf and how we can do it.

"We actually mentioned it to Bubba and Bubba was like, 'Hey, I actually disc golf a lot when I'm out on the road.' And that's when it kind of rolled down and I said, 'Hey, well, why don't you create a course for us? And we'll call it the Bubba Watson course.'"

Watson, two-time Masters champion and part-owner of the Southern League club, agreed immediately. In fact, he turned it into a family affair with his wife, Angie, and children Caleb (8) and Dakota (5).

"The reason we created the disc golf or thought about the disc golf is to bring families together again in a different way," Watson said. "What kid and what adult doesn’t want to go on a real professional baseball field inside the stadium and have some fun?"

Using their experience, the Watsons and Griffith charted out a nine-hole course that was both challenging and player-friendly, including a ninth hole that has participants throw from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.

"What kid and what adult doesn’t want to throw to home plate?" Watson said.

Obviously, amid the COVID-19 backdrop, the issue of safety was at the forefront of the Blue Wahoos' planning. Questions abounded as to how to pull off the course without putting people in danger.

"The big thing is safety, right?" Griffith said. "How do you keep everybody safe?"

This was especially important when it came to the discs themselves.

"What we did is we went out and found the company (that sold the discs) and bought three packs of them for 25 bucks," Griffith said. "Our thought was it would only be people that had played before. But what we found was we had, we're averaging about 150 people a day when we're doing it. We sold about 40 sets of those discs. So by saying that, about a third of the people that came out had never played before or they don't own their own disc, one of the two. So I think it did what we wanted it to do."

The course became a major hit with the community, including those who were dining at the restaurant located within the ballpark, which is the largest outdoor seating area in the Panhandle region. Between "Thirsty Thursdays" and participating in contests such as Dizzy Bat, people started seeing how they could fare at disc golf.

For Griffith, the popularity has been a surprise.

The disc golf course incorporates every part of Blue Wahoos Stadium. Daniel Venn/Pensacola Blue Wahoos

"Honestly, when we first did it, it was, 'Hey, let's hope somebody shows up,'" he said. "It went from that to having it where it is a steady flow all day long. And it's just fun to see people out again and outside and being entertained. And it feels as close to back to normal as we can get to at this point."

With so many stuck at home during quarantine, the Blue Wahoos were providing an escape from the rut of everyday life.

"The biggest thing is everybody feels safe doing it," Griffith said. "It's one that you're distanced, you don't have to be athletic and then you can hold a drink in one hand and throw with the other. It's one that it's not very high impact. So it really involves everybody. I've seen all ages out there, from your little kids to grandma and grandpa out there with them."

Griffith, noting he played some disc golf in the past, admitted there were some changes to the game that he had to get used to.

"Back in my day, you only had like one kind of Frisbee. You just threw it," he said. "Now they have putters and drivers and all this stuff. So it expanded my whole knowledge of disc golf, for sure."

As far as taking on Bubba, Griffith said he needed more practice.

It's a small part of what Watson has done for the community and team since arriving in 2015. The term "absentee owner" would never be apt for the professional golfer, even when he's busy on the road, putting up low rounds on the PGA Tour around the world.

"His passion is to help our community and he sees the baseball team is doing that in a way for him," Griffith said. "When he's able to be home, anytime that he is home, he's at the Blue Wahoos. He comes by, he stops into our meetings, he'll sit in our meetings. He will go to our board meetings. ... He's an active participant within the organization and truly cares about the organization and where we're going."

Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.