Spending time away from playing tournaments has provided me with a fresh perspective on golf and moreover, how deeply it has sunk its talons into all of us.
From my Friday morning golf crew at Royal Harare, to one of our 80-year-old members who is still trying to hit a draw off the tee for those ‘extra few yards’ of roll-out, to my mom in Australia, who updates me on her three-putt woes after every round and has now conceded to rather putting with her eyes closed.
This game has got us hooked, sliced and everything in between!
I have been blessed to meet, play golf with and become lifelong friends with so many incredible people over the past two decades.
One was a fellow Zimbabwean and a true giant in every sense of the word. But, most importantly, he was a man with more empathy and humility than I have felt from any person I’ve met.
Derek Watts will forever be the worst bunker player I’ve ever played with. But even in those moments, and often at his own expense, the humour and gracefulness he projected before, during and after each of the half-a-dozen swipes he took into the sand every time he was bunkered, would bring the fourball together in an eruption of laughter.
I planned on writing one paragraph about my time with you and was going to leave it there until we meet again, for another of those one-litre beer cans you found in a corner store years ago.
Wandering off in my memories of you has been cathartic, and I still hadn’t processed that you had left until right now. Lize and I still laugh about the photo of you two from that ‘night of the long beers’, as my feisty wife, aka ‘Par 3, Stroke 1’, stood head and shoulders beneath you.
She said on the way home that night how safe you make people feel just by being around you. I know you always held that place in the hearts of Belinda, Kirsty and Ty. ‘DW’, for your loved ones, workmates and the Kirsty Watts Foundation especially, the show must, and will, go on. From the rest of us, thank you for being our guardian of the truth, a gentleman, and for casting your endless rays of light, even into the darkest of shadows.
You will forever be a tough act to follow and nobody will ever be able to fill those shoes of yours. Not even with the amount of bunker sand you were always emptying out of them.
Thank you for allowing me to process the loss of a friend, an icon, and the best playing partner I ever lost money with.
– This column first appeared in the October 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.