One of a Kind
Let’s start with a question for the faithful Beacon readership this week. Do you, or did you ever, know anyone who went to work each day for 45 years and enjoyed their job?
I did, and his name is James “Bucky” O’Brien, PGA professional.
When you pulled into the parking lot at the Country Club of Greenfield his car would be spotted in front of a sign bearing his name. When he first started to park there he probably was driving a Studebacker from the ’50s. Nobody could ever take his spot because he always beat everyone to the course.
That space is now available because we lost Bucky after a 15 month battle with prostate cancer at age 77.
I can list his accomplishments, from an all-Western Mass. golfer at Tech High School in Springfield, which won a state championship, to CT Section PGA Professional of the Year in 2004, to Western Mass. Golf Hall of Famer in 2011, but that does not scratch the surface to describe his life and the effect he has had on the golf game.
When they honored him in 2004 the grand Ballroom at Foxwoods barely handled the crowd as half the town of Greenfield showed up. He almost outdrew “Meatloaf.”
I first met Bucky when I played in his Four Ball in the early ’80s. About 12 years, later when I was a member at neighboring Crumpin’ Fox Club in Bernardston, I walked in his shop and he called me by name and asked me how it was going at “The Fox.” I had met the man once and twelve years later he acted like I was on his Christmas card list. That was Bucky.
His membership (he referred to them as his family) loved the man who was dedicated to promoting golf and developing junior players. PGA pro Josh Hillman of Taconic was one of many outstanding young players who excelled under his tutelage.
I’ll give Bucky credit for initiating Pro-Ams at his club without using pros. That’s right. He would invite the top amateurs in Western Mass. and team them up with his 3 of his members for a round of golf. If you were honored to be invited you did not say no. O’Brien would treat these guests like they were PGA all stars. “My members know who these guys are but would rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to tee it up with players of that caliber, they love it and its great for the game,” O’Brien explained to me a few years ago.
In addition to his membership, he also nurtured his assistant of 22 years, the very popular and capable, Kevin Piecuch. Kevin will draw from his experience of learning from the best and the CC of Greenfield will persevere .
Even though there is vacancy in the prime spot in the lot at “CC of G,” I’ll wager that no one will consider themselves worthy of parking there.
Area sports fans will recall the name Ray Ellerbrook. Ellerbrook was a two sport star at UMass-Amherst, excelling at basketball and baseball in the late ’60s. Ray held all the scoring records at UMass before Dr. J came along. He was a two time All Yankee Conference choice in both sports. For years he was Director of the Northampton Recreation Dept and in 2002 took over as Manager of Look Park. Ellerbrook recently lost his battle with colon cancer at age 65.