Carey Watson intimates that “retirement” does not actually exist. Listening to him hold court on the subject, one could infer that he believes the majority of people consider retirement as a period to the end of a sentence.
For Watson, though, retirement is more of an ellipsis, a cliffhanger at the end of a page. In retirement, he says, folks need to turn the page.
“I have friends who have retired, and they didn’t retire to something. They just retired, and they’ve struggled,” the 69-year-old part-time Bend resident says. “I think when you end one chapter, you need to have another in mind. And for me, that was competitive golf.
“It wasn’t that I retired,” he adds. “I just changed careers.”
He may not have known it at the time, but at 12, Watson got his first taste of his post-career career. Back then, he had not played golf. He was a baseball player. Once, a family vacation meant missing a few ballgames. As a distraction, his father suggested they go hit the links. Young Carey conceded. And he was hooked.
“Literally it took one round, and I fell in love with it,” Watson says of golf. “I think I shot a 115. But it took just one time, and I loved it.”
Born near Syracuse, New York, Watson went on to play golf at the University of Miami. After graduation, he worked in marketing and advertising for a department store in Florida, leading a long and lucrative career built on a foundation of characteristics he developed through golf.
“Growing up, golf teaches you discipline and hard work and the ability to focus,” Watson says. “It always gives you a report card. You’ve got that score, how you did against the field. I enjoy getting report cards. When I went to work, that hard work and focus and understanding that you need the report card and feedback on performance to improve, it really helped me have a pretty successful career.”
Watson retired … er … started a new chapter in 2005. He and his wife of 44 years, Diane, spend five months each year in Bend, living just down the street from Bend Golf Club (though Watson considers Crosswater Club in Sunriver his home course). They spend a month driving back to Florida, with Carey sneaking in rounds or tournaments along the way, and spend the winter months in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, near their daughter and son.
Watson does not have one “home” golf association, really. He has played tourneys in the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (he won the Super Senior Men’s Amateur Championship in Sunriver last month) and the Oregon Golf Association, the Florida State Golf Association, and the United States Golf Association. He takes part in invitational tournaments everywhere in between.
So yes, Watson’s “retirement” schedule is slammed. He plays a round four times a week, he estimates, and practices on the driving range and putting green twice a week. Easy to see why he considers competitive golf a second career.
Don’t worry about his wife, though. She stays busy as a “very successful painter,” Watson says. “She spends more time painting and marketing than I do playing golf. She has that passion, too. That’s so great to have.”
It’s funny, Watson says. Sure, he played collegiate golf, but aside from an occasional club championship in Florida, he did not compete in tournaments between 1974 and 2005. Now, here in Oregon and in the Northwest, he is among the top senior players. And while he certainly enjoys and strives toward tourney success, simply playing golf is enough for him.
“I just think that it so motivates you to stay in shape and stay focused and keep your game sharp,” Watson says of the sport. “It’s a passion, and I think everyone needs a passion in life. As trivial as it sounds — and golf is such a trivial sport — with all the other things in life, I think you need something like golf.”
Watson calls golf “a relative that has stayed too long.” He is not, however, eager to kick that relative out the door.
“It has a huge presence in my life,” he says. “Golf is such a fascinating game. You’ve got the physical side of it, so you’re always trying to stay fit. It’s really helped me stay fit as I’ve gotten older. … Then you have the mental side of it. That’s why I love the tournaments. You get nervous. That’s actually a great feeling. I love that. And then there’s the creativity of golf. It’s such a challenge. Your mind never wanders.”
The challenge of the sport is key for Watson. He thrives on challenges. Take Watson himself: He suffers from a progressive neurological disorder known as essential tremors, or rhythmic shakes, in his hands. His father had it, as did his sister. He knew it was coming to him, and it did some 10 years ago. Watson, however, did not fret. He pushed forward.
“That’s exactly what it was,” he says of the tremors, “just something else to figure out.”
Conquering the challenge of golf, he says, is “almost like a personality trait. People that fall in love with the game, they have something in common: They have this idea that they want to win, they want to beat (golf). They never can, but they always keep trying and it’s always there for them. For someone who really likes a challenge, you have this game and you’ll never beat it. There will always be this challenge.”
Watson says the only thing that can cut his golf career short is physical limitation. He will fight through everything thrown in his path, he says, until he can fight no longer. Right now, though, he will continue to plug away.
“I think I’m going to play for as long as I enjoy it,” Watson says. “Getting up, going to the golf course, as long as this is what I want to do, I’m going to do it. Playing tournaments, as long as I want to play in a tournament, then I will do it. Whether or not I’m in the top five, top 10 or winning, as long as I love it, I’m going to keep doing it.”