Bobbie Callaway and Hugh Edwards met when both were in their late 40s on the final night of the PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship in 1990.
It was Bobbie’s second World Am and Hugh’s first. Bobbie was heading into the restroom at the old Myrtle Beach Convention Center and asked Hugh to hold her drink for her.
“I figured if he drinks it or leaves, hey it’s an open bar. His loss,” Bobbie said.
Hugh, in fact, waited for her to return, and though they didn’t speak again for another year, the brief encounter would result in a continuing 25-year marriage that has included a return trip to the World Am nearly every year since.
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“It has been a goal each year to come back and reconnect with friends and the competition of it. We love that,” Bobbie said. “And we have the romantic walks on the beach and all that stuff.”
Participation in the tournament in recent years hasn’t been easy. Bobbie, 74, has endured three years of chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant over the past five years, and beaten heavy odds to survive Stage 4 lymphoma.
She was given just a 5 percent chance of living a full year nearly five years ago, and a checkup last week showed the cancer remains in remission.
So the couple is back in Myrtle Beach this week, each playing in their 25th World Am.
The casual encounter outside the bathroom was remembered for a year, and Hugh, who lived in Camp Hill, Penn., returned to the tournament in 1991 and searched the names of entrants to find Bobbie, who lived in Acton, Mass. He sought her out at the 19th Hole near the women’s scoreboard following the first round.
“I said, ‘What a shame about those phone lines that have been broken between Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and Acton, Massachusetts for a whole year,’ ” Bobbie recalled. “ ‘I figure if they weren’t broken you would have called me.’ ”
They spent time together that week, played golf the day after the tournament and began a romantic relationship.
On the tee before their first round together Bobbie, who was a single-digit handicap at the time, asked Hugh how many strokes he wanted to make the round equitable. Hugh’s handicap was above 20 and he hadn’t played many rounds with women.
“He said, ‘I’m not taking any strokes from a girl.’ So I pretty much creamed him,” Bobbie said.
Shortly after the 1991 World Am, Hugh visited Bobbie and two of her daughters during a trip to Baltimore for their first non-World Am date, then started driving seven hours to visit her in Acton every few weeks. Bobbie was nursing her mother, who was dying of cancer at that time. They married in May 1992. “It’s a real romantic story,” Bobbie said.
Bobbie is a distant relative of Callaway Golf Co. founder Ely Callaway and retained her last name in the marriage. “I like Edwards, you know. I go by Edwards when he pays for hotels, restaurants, things like that,” Bobbie said. “. . . He said, ‘If it were Hogan I’d probably switch to it.’ ”
Bobbie was an elementary school teacher who owned and operated the Serendipity Child Development Center in Acton, and Hugh accepted an early retirement offer from IBM, for whom he was an administrative manager of a sales office, to move to Massachusetts after the wedding.
They combined seven children in the marriage. Bobbie has four daughters and Hugh, 75, has a daughter and two sons. Five of the children were in college, the youngest was in high school, and six children lived in the house after the marriage.
“They were good kids, but they decided they were a force against their parents,” Hugh said. “If one was in trouble the other was their defense lawyer.”
“People ask, ‘Well, did they get along,’ ” Bobbie said. “Yeah, a little bit too well, thank you.”
The couple now has 20 grandchildren.
Hugh had a mild heart attack early in 1993 and Bobbie suggested they move south for their health. The couple moved to the Grand Strand within a few months “because we fell in love with Myrtle Beach through the World Am,” said Bobbie, who worked in the Carolina Forest school district while Hugh worked on the bag drop and in the pro shop at Wild Wing Plantation during their seven years in the area. Hugh helped start the enduring National Father & Son Team Classic while at Wild Wing.
The couple has been living for the past 18 years in the Sun City development in Bluffton, where Hugh has worked for the past 15 years in the pro shop at Belfair golf club.
Bobbie’s bone marrow transplant in 2016 was autologous – it was her own bone marrow that had been previously removed and stored. She lost more than 30 pounds during her treatments to fall below 100 pounds.
Her three years of chemo included an experimental treatment that was usually used on leukemia patients rather than lymphoma patients.
Hugh was her caretaker throughout.
“They didn’t think this old broad was going to make it several times. I was given less than six months three times,” Bobbie said. “I surprised them there. Well, God surprised them, I think.
“I want people to realize they can keep playing golf or whatever their passion is and keep plugging at it and not sit on the couch and think, ‘Woe is me.’ Now with all the research there are all these different things they can try, if you have the courage to try them.”
What makes her story of survival more impressive is she has had just one kidney for the past 34 years. She believes she’s the first person to donate a kidney to a cousin in the U.S.
While she was batting cancer, Bobbie wrote a book that was recently published titled “You Only Need One,” that she hopes will inspire people to be live organ donors.
She believes she’s proof that the donation won’t negatively impact a person’s life.
“People don’t donate kidneys or a pancreas or whatever because they’re afraid they’re going to die soon,” Bobbie said. “So the older I get the more I negate that fear. And they’re afraid they’re not going to be able to do whatever they’re passionate about and I still compete on a national level with the golf. And the other thing is they’re afraid they will not be able to get through other medical situations, and I had both knees replaced on the same day and got through all the cancer.
“That’s my new passion, live donorship.”
Earlier this month, Bobbie won a pair of gold medals in golf at the Donate Life Transplant Games of America in Utah for donors and recipients.
The quality of their golf games has flipped over the years as Hugh has greatly improved to a 9.8 handicap, and Bobbie’s handicap has risen from 12 to 23 due to her health struggles.
A loss to Bobbie in matches during their honeymoon in Hilton Head Island paved the way for Hugh’s improvement. The couple has regularly played golf matches for chores and favors, and after a pair of wins Bobbie’s favor was for Hugh to leave his driver in the trunk.
His two rounds without the driver were a pair of 82s. “He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, this is what this game is about,’ because he was kind of a wild man [off the tee] before that and now he’s quite the player,” Bobbie said.
Hugh has missed three World Ams during their relationship because he had to work at Wild Wing during the event, and Bobbie has missed four – two while battling cancer and two when her teaching job began the week of the tournament.
The highest Bobbie has finished in her flight was fourth, and Hugh has recorded flight finishes of second and fourth – though Callaway’s daughter Stephanie won the women’s lowest-handicapped flight to qualify for the championship round in the 1990s.
Bobbie and Hugh’s relationship, and their accomplishments made together, will always be tied to the World Am, which continues through Friday’s championship round at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club.
“The World Am in recent years has been a real bucket list thing,” Bobbie said. “I never thought I’d be able to come back.”