There's two sides to autograph story

December, 6, 2014

Windermere, Fla. -- "I got six mothers, nine aunts, four dads and three fish that need you to sign this."

That was Bubba Watson's response when asked about the difference between people honestly asking for an autograph for themselves and people selling them online. But what happens when the athlete gets it wrong?

Joshua Bush, from Gainesville, Florida, had someone bring him a 2012 Masters flag and last year he made the trek to the Players Championship to get it signed by the Masters champ himself.

On Wednesday that week, during the practice round at TPC Sawgrass, Bush found a prime spot just off the 18th green and waited patiently. He was sure the planning paid off when Watson made his way toward the group of fans to sign autographs.

"Me and a young kid, who looked about 10 years old, was next to me, also with a 2012 Masters flag," Bush said. "[Bubba] walked closest to me first and I just asked him if he could sign my Masters flag. He looked at me and said, 'You're gonna make a bunch on money eBay.' I said, no, I wouldn't.

"The kid next to me asked him to sign the flag and he did sign his flag, but then said, 'You're dad's gonna make a bunch of money on eBay off that.'"

Bush couldn't believe what he just heard.

"My jaw just dropped. That was not what I was expecting to come out of his mouth."

Therein lies the problem for professional athletes. How can you tell who's going to sell autographs and who is truly there as a fan? And how many fans do athletes lose in a moment of discourse? Watson lost one that day.

"Not too long after that I actually got into an argument with somebody that was really sticking up for Bubba saying how nice of a guy that he was," Bush said. "I just told him about my personal experience and plus what everybody sees on TV occasionally."

There was hurt on Bush's face and in his voice when he spoke of that incident.

Is there a way a player could tell the difference between a fan and a salesman?

"That's tough cause ... if you look at a 10-year-old kid, I highly doubt he's gonna put it up for sale," Bush said. "But I don't think there really is a definite way you look at somebody and tell if they are there as a fan, or there for other reasons ... maybe pick and choose a little better wording is my best advice."

Just then, Watson came out of the scoring area and came over to where Bush was standing on Saturday at the Hero World Challenge. After a quick introduction and telling of the story, I was able to snap this photo.

"Honestly, I don't care if people are gonna sell the stuff," Watson said. "I just want them to be honest about it. Don't tell me you got seven grandmothers who need stuff signed."

Then six tournament volunteers walked up and asked Watson for photos and autographs.

"[That puts a] little different outlook on things, [when] you get his side of the story, kinda, and it puts it all into a different perspective for sure," Bush said. "Those guys get it all day, ya know? People asking them for autographs for a couple aunts."

He smiled saying that.

"It's nonstop for these guys even after signing their scorecards and being away from the big crowds," Bush added.

So now what?

"Bubba's good by me," Bush said, without hesitation.

Michael Collins

ESPN Senior Writer


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