The University of Georgia alumnus was born Gerry Lester Watson Jr. in the Florida Panhandle, but was dubbed “Bubba” at birth by his father. It’s a tradition as Southern as deep-fried catfish and a drawled-out “y’all.”
“I just think it’s great that a guy named Bubba could win the most prestigious of all sporting events,” said Bubba Helton, a Wells Fargo Advisors vice president born James Philip Helton Jr. “It’s second to none.”
Jim Cobb, a professor of Southern history at UGA, said there’s a personality type that just fits the name “Bubba.” Watching the laid-back, emotional Watson slip on the green jacket showed Cobb that the nickname suits the 2012 Masters champion.
“It didn’t seem in the least bit strained or choreographed,” Cobb said. “That’s just the way Bubbas behave.”
Alfred Cecil Mauldin II has always been known by a far simpler name.
“My parents called me Bubba from the git-go, so I’ve had it all my life,” the retired state fisheries biologist said. “Anybody with a name like mine probably needs a nickname anyway.”
Watson’s Masters triumph, he added, shows that Bubbas everywhere can achieve lofty feats.
“The thing that’s most important to understand is that names are bestowed upon you, even nicknames, so it’s not necessarily something you choose.”
The “Bubba” nickname didn’t hold back Bubba McDonald who won statewide election to the Public Service Commission after a long career in the General Assembly that peaked when he served as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. His sister’s mispronunciation of “brother” as an infant tagged him with the name that he once tried to shed when his PSC campaign materials labeled him Lauren McDonald.
“Growing up, I thought it was sort of like having a brick on my head or that it made me seem like a redneck or something,” he said Monday.
McDonald, an avid golfer, said he watched the finals of the Masters and at the end remarked, “That puts Bubba in another perspective.”
This week, he’s holding his head up.
“Now that Bubba Watson has won the Masters, it’s a good name. I’m wearing it with pride. I’ve got Bubba all over me,” McDonald said.
Walter C. Jones, of Morris News Service, contributed to this report.