Famous shot of Ben Hogan hitting the 1 Iron shot on the eighteenth hole of the final round at Merion to win the 1950 US Open Championship.
Tuesday brought terrible news from my oldest Bashinsky first cousin that my youngest first cousin on my mother’s side had killed himself. I wrote back that Bubba had told me he was under strain and things didn’t seem to be working out in Birmingham, but I never considered this outcome. Probably, I didn’t want to consider it.
Bubba and I started an email dialogue right after my brother Major killed himself a little over a year ago. Bubba often said he enjoyed my daily posts, wanted to come down to Key West for a visit, and for me to keep giving ‘em hell. That was before I moved back to Walden on Little Torch to give ‘em hell up here in the District 2 County Commission race. After I entered that race, I started moaning about not having enough club and needing a 1 iron. Bubba said he could take care of that but before he fixed the problem my opponent George “Bubba” Neugent gave me his 1 iron. As soon as I gripped it, I knew it was a dinky little old ladies’ 1-iron.
Boy, was I glad to see the real thing arrive at Harpoon Harry’s in Key West, where Bubba sent it because he knew I liked eating breakfast there surrounded by my harem. A beautiful, humongous Callaway, Bubba said it was from his private stock. Of course, the final outcome of the District 2 race proved once again that Lee Trevino was dead on the money when he once was told at a golf tournament to get off the course because of an approaching thunderstorm and he pulled the 1 iron out of his bag and raised it overhead and hollered, “Not even God can hit a 1 iron!”
When Bubba shared with me that things weren’t going so good for him and asked if I knew of anything he could do down here?, I said, given his golf background, I thought he might be able to find something either at Ocean Reef Club or Key West Golf Club, and perhaps I could introduce him to some people who might be able to help him relocate. I said I didn’t think he would like the golf club in Marathon. Too geriatric, that town. Heard nothing back from Bubba on moving to the Keys but he kept writing, saying he was reading my posts every morning and for me to keep giving ‘em hell. It was refreshing to have a blood relative egging me on for a change.
Bubba was born in and spent his early years in Miami. His family lived on the golf course in Coral Gables and his father, having gotten hooked on golf because it was my father’s game, had Bubba playing golf as soon as he could hold a golf club. Bubba trained under Bob Toski and Johnny Pott. A tour pro, Toski was the resident pro at Ocean Reef Club. Pott also was on the tour. It was “Big Jim” Major’s dream that Bubba would become a touring pro and make it big.
Big Jim’s employer owned an oceanside home on Lower Matecumbe Key, which my father purchased in 1963. Bubba loved the Keys as much as I did. A few years later, Big Jim went to work for my father’s company and moved his family to Birmingham. At age sixteen, Bubba won the Alabama State Men’s Amateur Golf Championship. Everyone figured he would turn pro, make a bundle. He went pro but did not reach stardom. I felt all along Bubba had too much pressure on him to be the next Arnold Palmer or Ben Hogan. When that didn’t happen, he regained his amateur status. From all I saw, he seemed to be drifting, unable to gain traction.
Sometimes Bubba and I played in the same dogfight before he got so good that he played with the big boys and we wannabes continued to aspire. After some early shows of promise, my swing had developed a glitch I never could work out, and eventually I gave up the game that is an X-ray of the soul, feeling like a major-league failure. Later failures made me feel like the world-champion all-time failure. Ironically, today I frequenlty have golf dreams. I had one early this morning, which pointed me toward this post today. In life, I am to play every shot as it lies, like touring pros do.
I told my brother’s first wife yesterday that Bubba probably felt like a total failure after he didn’t make it on the pro tour. She agreed. She knew all too well the problems caused by a father living through his son’s sports achievements. She said yesterday that she felt Major’s suicide, which left so many unanswered questions, must have really affected Bubba, because he left a suicide note explaining he had been depressed and thinking of killing himself for some time.
Some years behind me, Bubba’s wife clerked for the same federal judge for whom I clerked straight out of law school. Everyone who knew this remarkable man understood he was cut from a different cloth. If it helps any, Cuz, we knew at Judge Allgood’s graveside service that he had killed himself. I know for a fact a great celebration occurred in heaven when he crossed over. I also know for a fact that many times I wished I had the courage to kill myself. Perhaps more than your and my family will ever know, I figure I know what you were up against.
I’m sorry, Cuz, if I let you down, if I didn’t pay close enough attention. I knew you were in trouble but I just didn’t know what to do about it. Maybe I should have invited you down to hang out here at Walden. Darn. Just darn. I hope you are at rest now. You deserve it. I’m going to seriously miss you, Bubba. And have no fear: I’m going to keep giving ‘em hell. I don’t know where or how, but I know it’s gonna happen. It’s in my genes. God only knows where those genes came from, because I sure as hell can’t see any traces in my father or mother’s bloodlines.
I found myself thinking, Cuz, as I began writing this farewell two days ago, that I should thank my lucky stars I became the family black sheep instead of trying to hang in there and become what my father and his father wanted me to become. I suppose I ended up at the best place in the world to be a black sheep because there are plenty of them down here in the Keys. This one now finds himself wondering if God has in mind proving Lee Trevino was mistaken. Any assistance you can lend on the links, Cuz, is appreciated.
CHARLES MARK “BUBBA” MAJOR
MAJOR, CHARLES “BUBBA” MARK Charles “Bubba” Mark Major, age 59, died on March 28, 2011. He was born to James Garnett and Margot Bleiweiss Major in Coral Gables, Florida on September 23, 1951. The family moved to Birmingham where he attended Mountain Brook High School graduating in 1970. A talented golfer, he became one of the youngest ever winners of the Alabama Golf Association State Amateur Championship in 1969. He graduated from Chippola Junior College where he was a member of the golf team, and attended the University of Alabama on a golf scholarship. He became a professional golfer playing on mini-tours in Arizona, Australia, and New Zealand. After regaining his amateur status, he qualified for three United States Amateur championships in 1972, 1984, and 1990. Mr. Major also won the Willow Point Men’s Invitational Championship in 1971 and the Vestavia Invitational in 1972. Eventually, he became the managing partner of Boswell Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham. He later worked for Mailon Kent Insurance and Freeport Steel. Mr. Major was a member of the Country Club of Birmingham, which was his home away from home. There he won the junior championship in 1969, the men’s championship in 1973, and the Men’s Invitational Senior Championship in 2002. This last tournament was most meaningful as the cup was named for his mentor, golf professional Jon Gustin. He was a member of several dogfights including The Due Rights, The Nickel Nassau, The Sting, The Gravy Train, and The Rollers. In addition to golf, he loved mentoring young golfers and coaching his children in basketball, football, softball and baseball. He was a member of Mountain Brook Baptist Church since 1970 and was a faithful attendee of the 8:30 service. He is preceded in death by his parents, James and Margot Major. He is survived by his wife, Jane Hagan Major, his two children Charles Hagan Major and Elizabeth Margot Major, his brother James Garnett Major, III, and numerous friends and family who loved him and that he loved. Funeral services will be held at Mountain Brook Baptist Church at 3:00 on Thursday, March 31st. The family will receive friends after the service in Hudson Hall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Big Oak Ranch, Mountain Brook Baptist Church, or a charity of your choice. Services are under the direction of Ridout’s Valley Chapel (879-3401) in Homewood.