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John Garrity
July 17, 1995
While golfing great Tom Watson remains a hero on the course, his way of looking at the world and his penchant for speaking out have turned him into a heavy off it
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July 17, 1995

Point Of View

While golfing great Tom Watson remains a hero on the course, his way of looking at the world and his penchant for speaking out have turned him into a heavy off it

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The Kansas City C.C. dispute drew attention to Watson's family situation, which was troubled even before the Bloch nomination. Ray Watson is a recovering alcoholic who quit drinking some years ago, but his behavior in galleries reportedly became so disruptive that his son insisted he no longer attend tournaments. This was a blow to the proud father who had already distanced himself from the independent lifestyles of his other two sons.

Ray and Tom have since reconciled. Last August, Ray traveled to Tulsa to watch his son play in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. In January, Tom and Linda met his parents in Hawaii for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration, with grandchildren Meg, 15, and Michael, 12, filling out the entourage. Tom and Ray played golf as of old—reliving, no doubt, the time when during a visit to their summer home in Wallon Lake, Mich., a 12-year-old Tom played his father in the club championship at Wallon Lake Country Club and lost on the 20th hole. "We had a great time," says Ray, "except I can't play a lick anymore."

Ridge Watson says the hometown rumor mill exaggerated his family's rift. "I think Dad was probably not wildly pleased [by Tom's resignation], but it certainly didn't change the way we behaved at family gatherings." But another close observer describes the months following the Bloch episode as "horrible, a nightmare." Neither the Watsons nor the Rubins will discuss the matter, seeing no gain in public confession.

Meanwhile, changes in the club's membership policies—Bloch and other minority members were ultimately admitted—opened the door for Watson to return. When he did so, it was without fanfare. "We think it's time for healing," he says. Previously, he had discounted the possibility of rejoining, saying, "It would revive the publicity."

And publicity is something he has had more than enough of. Watson seems only to have to open his mouth or uncap his pen, and controversy follows. "It's getting old," Watson says. "Linda says, 'Keep your mouth shut. You don't open your mouth, your feet can never get in it.' "

So yes, Watson continues to take his punishment. If at times he seems to be frozen in his follow-through, it's because he must watch life's every shot find fairway or hazard, depending on the judgment that he has displayed.

"I don't make excuses," Watson says. "I just think society is so excuse-oriented, it's not my fault. It's not my fault!' "

He shakes his head. "You make excuses, you're not fooling anybody. That's what I learned playing with my dad," he says. "If I hit a shot that ended up close to the hole and didn't hit it solid, Dad would say, 'You hit it off the toe' or 'You hit it fat.' There was no getting away with excuses, so I never made any.

"That's what I love about the game of golf. It's yours. It's yours." A thin smile visits Watson's face, as some imagined shot clears all obstacles and rolls toward the flagstick.

"It's nobody else's," he says. "It's yours."

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