Troy Watson was 12 years old when his golf putt caught the attention of his future coach.
Curt Hay, Livonia Stevenson’s Head Boys golf coach, was leading a training session at the Oasis Golf Center in Northville Township when he saw young Watson working on his short game.
“I went over and asked him if he would demonstrate for my seniors so that I could show them anything I wanted,” recalls Hay. “I said, ‘This boy has a pure putting stroke. I want these guys to try to copy it. ‘
“It didn’t work anyway.”
Three years later, Hay received a letter from Troy Watson, a new freshman at Stevenson High School, introducing himself and saying he was looking forward to playing for his team in 2021. As he read the letter, the Spartans coach could only think of: “I wonder if this is the same kid I met in the dome?”
In his first year at Stevenson, this 12-year-old putter-turned-15-year-old freshman shone for the Spartans, leading the team to his first State Finals appearance since 1998, finishing first on the team with a 161 – a 76 rounds on the second day.
For Watson, this is the basis on which to build. He spends his offseason on the driving range and golf course with his father Damon and his mother and two siblings, who each improve in the game that unites them from an early age.
Golf has always been a family affair for the Watson family.
Passing on the love of golf
Damon Watson recalls his father playing golf. He never really went with him – laughed at using the game to get away for a bit – but he had been aware of the sport since he was 8 and picked up his own rackets when he was 14.
Golf became the ultimate compensation for him.
“I felt like I could play with doctors and lawyers even though I wasn’t one of them,” said Damon. “I wasn’t in high society, but when I was on the golf course and beat them on the golf course, they wanted my number and they wanted to see how I could play with them again. It made me feel good. It gave me confidence in life. “
When Damon Watson started his family at 36, he was keen to pass on his love for golf.
“The moment Troy was born, the day I put my finger in his grip and the first thing I thought about was golf,” he said.
These thoughts continued when he bought his son a set of toy golf clubs for his third birthday and watched Troy stick four balls straight into the hole without any instructions. Damon even accidentally woke up and told his wife that he had a dream that Troy and his brother Damo would be “stars” on the pitch.
The father set the course and began teaching his three-year-old the game he loved.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Damon Watson. “I just had to use math. “Okay, we’re going to hit 100 golf balls a day.” I added them, “It should be so many months and so many years, so by the age of 4 he should have so many golf shots. He should be one of the best in the country by that point.” And that’s what happened.
“We never gave up. If I only had $ 10 in my pocket, they’d be on the range. We came out of here and hit balls. “
Incrementally, Troy Watson improved his game, traveled the country and won several Tour League championships by the age of 6. By the age of 10, Damon Watson said his son was the best player in the state of Michigan in his age group.
Troy Watson no longer remembers learning how to play golf at this age. He admits that it had an impact on him and defined his relationship between himself and his father.
“Every time he talked to me about how he plays golf and how he learned from the game and what he did, it just motivates me to get better,” said Troy Watson. “I will always enjoy playing golf and will always enjoy hearing these stories from my father.”
Golf success followed Watson into high school.
In his first year with the Spartans, the freshman kept his average score in the mid-1970s, finishing 10 of 16 events as the lowest-scoring Stevenson golfer and receiving KLAA All-Conference awards.
But his mindset had to change. For Troy Watson, golf has always been an individual game. He had to learn that his game affected his surroundings, something Damon Watson saw at the first tournament at the Detroit Country Club.
“He got up on his own and started doing exercises that he hadn’t done in a few years,” said Damon Watson. “On the morning of the first tournament, he doesn’t want to abandon his teammates or his new coach. That kind of novelty for the game ignited him and brought an energy that he really hasn’t shown in a while. “
Troy Watson said it was a different kind of atmosphere – working together as a team, moving forward together, and picking up his teammates – that made him step out of his comfort zone and show a level of determination and dedication that made him a leader in his branch made first season.
That commitment and determination has turned into trust. Watson’s goals for his next season are to win a regional conference and complete the All-Conference, as well as the top 10 in his class at the state finals, each of which he describes as “easy goals”.
“It made some expectations for our team,” said Troy Watson of his freshman season. “We know we can do it. We did it this year and we can do it next year, maybe even better. “
Watson’s preparation for 2022 has already begun, months after his first high school season ended.
It’s a family affair: Damon Watson, accompanied by his wife, Joan Nobert, drove Troy, Damo, and their daughter Carolyn – both of whom are well on their way to playing for the Spartans in the near future – to Carl’s Golfland in Plymouth for some work to get the driving range.
Each of them stood side by side and took one swing at a time, as Troy had done when he was younger; only the balls are now moving on and on. Damon Watson’s goal for Troy is to increase the distance of each ball, an average of 300 yards instead of 270 yards.
Damo’s goal is to take on his brother Troy. But Troy knows that his 12-year-old brother is already close, if not equal, to his abilities, as is his 9-year-old sister.
“My brother, he’s 12 now … he’s better than me when I was 12,” said Troy.
Troy urges Carolyn and Damo to get better and vice versa. Golf unites the three, usually brings them closer together, but also drives them apart due to increasing competition.
But the potential of each of his children is something Damon Watson really cannot understand at this point. He can only watch them swing their turns on the driving range.
“I just try to take it one day at a time and move on with our principles and values as a family,” he said.
Contact reporter Colin Gay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-330-6710. Follow him on Twitter @ ColinGay17. Send match results and statistics to Liv-Sports@hometownlife.com.