Allyson Oury of Crestview burst into tears when Bubba Watson clinched his second Masters title on Sunday.
“We cried the first time, we cried this time,” said Oury, who remembers Watson from when she was about 6 years old and lived across the street from his house in Bagdad, a small community in Santa Rosa County. “It’s hard to believe it's that same little boy walking around the yard carrying that golf club everywhere he went. We’re just so proud of him.
“It’s like our little brush with fame.”
She's no avid golf fan, but Jeanie Owens was glued to the television set on Sunday.
“He’s local, he’s handsome and everybody loves him,” said the bartender at Fantasy’s in Fort Walton Beach, where people crowded to watch Watson’s win.
Watson — 35, who graduated from Milton High School in 1997 — had fans in a frenzy as he rallied to win his second green jacket in three years.
Across the Emerald Coast, golf enthusiasts, fans and local professionals gathered at area clubs to witness the big moment.
At Shalimar Pointe Golf Club, club pro Jeremy Miller watched alongwith a standing-room only crowd inside the clubhouse restaurant.
"We had a men's league event earlier (on Sunday), and we finished up when Bubba was making the turn," he said. "It was absolutely fantastic. Any time you see a local guy win something as big as the Masters, it's awesome."
Watson captured his second Masters crown in three years thanks to a thrilling Sunday charge that included a number of envelope-pushing shots, including a booming drive on No. 13 to set up a birdie and a memorable second shot at the Par-5 15th hole.
"You're always going to get a big crowd for the Masters, but this was special," Miller said. "Normally people will trickle out through the day, but (Sunday) we were all glued to the TV. It wasn't just that we were watching a local guy, but it's the way he was playing. He was making shots that no tour pro would even dream of, and he did it his way.
"Everybody here was ecstatic to see the local guy play as well as he did."
Emerald Coast milestone
Watson earned a tournament-record $1.62 million for the victory, his eighth as a pro and sixth on the PGA Tour. The Masters paid out a record $9 million in prize money.
Watson's victory, for other area observers, was another milestone for golf across the Emerald Coast.
"It's good for Northwest Florida," said Fort Walton Beach High golf coach John Lavin. "It says a lot about golf in the area, and it's always a good thing to see someone from here make it big."
Sean Hassett remembers playing against Watson during middle school golf tournaments when Hassett was a student at Meigs in Shalimar.
“He was driving 300 yards even back then,” Hassett said. “He’d always win it ahead of us.”
Hassett, who now lives in Columbus, Ga., said this year’s tournament wasn’t as close as the last time Watson won the Masters in 2012.
“It wasn’t as stressful to watch this time,” he said.