Inspired by a teammate, Watson takes lead in raising money to help Japan

bubba watson
Getty Images
Bubba Watson told his former Georgia teammate Ryuji Imada that because he's been a longtime friend, Watson would give $50,000 to the American Red Cross for the Japan relief effort.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series:

Bubba Watson was moved when he heard about the earthquake and tsunami that caused so much destruction in Japan, and he began thinking about a contribution to the relief efforts, just as he did with Haiti earthquake.

A lighthearted conversation with Ryuji Imada, a former teammate at Georgia, pushed in that direction.

Imada, who was born in Japan, pledged to donate $1,000 toward relief efforts for every birdie he made during the Transitions Championship last week at Innisbrook.

"That made me interested," Watson said Tuesday. "But I said to Ryuji, 'What if you don't make any birdies?' I told him if he went two days without making birdies, I'd give $10,000 in his honor. We were joking. But he said he thought about that, but he was going to give money no matter what he did."

The next day, Imada opened with a 74 without making a single birdie.

Watson then told Imada that because he's been a longtime friend, he would give $50,000 to the American Red Cross. Imada made two birdies on Friday, but by then, the seed had taken root. Watson finished his final round Sunday, found a PGA Tour official and handed him a check for $50,000 for the Japan relief efforts.

"We always give to charity," Watson said. "It's about helping people who need help. Me and my wife, Angie, we talked about it when the disaster happened. We wanted to help. We can't dig through the rubble, so how about money? We've been blessed with money, why not help? And then Ryuji brought it to our attention.

"We think about this all the time, how blessed we are," he said. "From where I grew up to where I am now, it's a blessing to be able to write a check like that."

Watson wasn't alone in his personal charity efforts.

K.J. Choi, who has spent a career giving back, pledged $100,000. From his first victory on the PGA Tour, Choi had given a percentage of his winning check to the church he attended in the city that week.

Bobby Gates and Brandt Snedeker were among those who pledged money based on their birdies. Watson said he hopes the effort picks up momentum at the next few tournaments.