Course of a Lifetime

Golf, their favorite sport, is the tie that binds these 30 friends in brotherhood.

Written By Rachel Burchfield | Illustrated by Sarah McCullen

If you’re looking for Bob Sims from Sept. 15 to 19, you won’t find him in Tupelo, where he has made his home for 16 years.

Instead, for those blessed days, you’ll find him with his golf buddies in Highlands, North Carolina. The group, which has no official name, visits every year to play the sport they love at clubs across the town.

“What would you do without your friends?” Sims said. “Friends are right up there with family and church as a major part of your everyday life. The more you have, the better off you are.”

Of the group’s roughly 30 members, five are named Bob and all go by different monikers: Sims is known as “Fast Bob” because of his fast style of golf play. Then there’s Slow Bob (he plays the game a little slower), Doctor Bob (he’s a retired endodontist), Preacher Bob (bet you can’t guess his profession), and Big Bob.

Along with the name Bob, the group members share a common passion: golf. They have met one another and become friends over the course of a lifetime — literally.

It all started with Birmingham native Mac Gober, and Sims, who lived in Birmingham for 37 years but now lives in Tupelo. With Sims as the conduit, the mostly Birmingham-based group grew to include seven men from Tupelo.

“It was just happenstance,” Gober said. “Bob and I had a mutual friend, and I met Bob very shortly after I retired in 2005. It morphed into a group in Birmingham, and around eight or nine years ago we started taking trips to North Carolina. Before you know it, we had 20 or so Alabama people and seven from Mississippi going to all kinds of different locations.”

The golf group festivities take place in Grayton Beach, Florida, in February and in Highlands, North Carolina, in September, mixed with day trips to play golf here and there throughout the year. Most of the men are retired, so the group and the get-togethers allow for solid friendships and social occasions that the men might have otherwise lacked now that they are no longer in the working world.

“When you’re retired and don’t have associations with your comrades at work, business partners, and customers anymore, this (group) means a lot as far as male bonding,” Grober said.

The group has been in existence for about 15 years, adding new members all the time who are vetted friends and fellow golfers. Sims and Gober organize the trips each year, including renting houses that all of the guys stay at together in fellowship.

“You can’t put a price on it,” Sims said. “It’s really unusual — this group of guys get along so well. There are never brawls or fights or real bad arguments. If we end up bringing a new one in and he’s a troublemaker, he’s just not invited anymore. Thankfully, we haven’t had that problem.”

When the group began, they used to get out and hit the links at around 7:30 or 8 a.m., but they give themselves a little more leeway now, scheduling tee times at around 9 or 10 a.m. following a big breakfast.

“Mac and I are the cooks and do all of the meals,” Sims said. “We always cook a big breakfast. We are big breakfast eaters: eggs, Wright bacon, plenty of toast.”

After breakfast, it’s 18 holes, then back to whatever rented house they’re staying at to have a toddy and either go out to dinner or, more likely, fix dinner at the house. Every trip the gang can expect steak, lamb chops, hamburgers and a Stouffer’s lasagna. If they’re in Florida, they grab seafood at Stinky’s Fish Camp. In North Carolina, it’s fried chicken, coleslaw and potato salad from Bryson’s Food Store. One of the Birmingham guys is originally from Louisiana, so there’s usually a Cajun night to honor him.

“Golf is the common thread that connects us,” Sims said. “And loving to eat.”

Some of the golfers are really good, Sims said; many are what he calls “weekenders,” who see golf as more of a hobby than a competitive sport. Sims has been golfing for 57 years, since he was 21, and currently plays three times weekly at Tupelo Country Club.

“I’ve been playing golf a lot of years, and I haven’t gotten any better,” Sims said. “I just love the game.”

Sims said it feels good to have friends all over the place, especially friends that like to do the same things, and he calls the trips the highlights of his year. Gober echoes his friend’s sentiments.

“It means the world,” Gober said.

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