Playing at the Pensacola Country Club’s Member-Guest last weekend, former Science Hill High School golfers Nick and Drew Poland won the championship flight. One of the other teams in their group was comprised of two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and Ping Chairman John Solheim.
“It was fantastic, really a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Nick said. “We didn’t know what to expect playing with Bubba. He’s a very cool guy.”
Nick, a chemical engineer, is a member of the club in Pensacola, Florida, also Watson’s home course. Drew recently finished his junior year at Alabama.
The brothers had already experienced top-level golf up-close and personal when they played in the pro-am at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nick played with Ricky Barnes and Drew played with Billy Horschel, but this was something different.
They were actually competing against a PGA Tour star, and it wasn’t just any star. This was Bubba Watson, one of the most polarizing figures in professional golf and maybe the most imaginative shot-maker in the world.
“Bubba was something else,” Nick said. “The shot shapes he was hitting were something. It was a pretty windy day. He was hitting low cuts off the tee, still bombing it 310 into the wind. It was pretty cool to watch. It looked like he was practicing for the British Open.”
Drew added: “To see the shots he can hit in person, all the slices and hooks, was amazing. In our first match, we were behind him and he had 275 yards into the wind and he hits this dart, a hook, over the green. It was really something.”
The format had each two-person team playing five nine-hole matches. Based on the brothers’ low handicaps and Watson playing to a minus-six, the Polands were getting four strokes in their match against Watson and Solheim.
Watson played lights out to help his team win the match, shooting a 29 on his own ball that included two eagles and seven birdies.
“He was six under through five holes,” Drew said. “It was ridiculous.”
One of Watson’s birdies came when he drove a par-four and two-putted. He also lost one of the holes he eagled thanks to Nick making an eagle of his own while getting a stroke.
Even Bubba finds it tough to beat a net two on a par-five.
In the end, Watson and Solheim prevailed in the match, but the Polands took the top prize in the championship flight based on their play in the other matches.
When Nick sank a six-foot putt on the final hole of their last match to clinch the flight, Watson was near the green pulling for them.
“Bubba congratulated us for winning the flight,” Drew said.
Winning the flight paid $400 for the brothers. Watson’s $100 — he and Solheim split $200 for second — would have raised his career earnings to $35,950,113 had it been official money.
“I have so many things good things to say about Bubba,” Drew said “He was in his hometown and he was relaxed. He was the nicest guy ever. He was saying ‘Great shot, great swing.’ He was a very nice person. He was even giving us crap on a couple holes.”
Watson is one of the biggest hitters on tour, averaging around 305 yards on his drives this year. Nick got close to outdriving him on one hole, coming up about five yards short.
“He probably wasn’t going after it like he could,” Nick said. “He was playing easy golf.”
The Polands left the course on Sunday with a championship and enough memories to last forever. Most importantly, though, they had a new favorite golfer.
“Hanging out with a two-time Masters champion was incredible,” Drew said. “He was super down to earth. It was a cool experience. I’ll be a Bubba fan for the rest of my life.”