Leukemia survivor wins LPGA Pro-Am event

Beth Bader won the Pro-Am event with leukemia survivor Aaron Theobald, three shots ahead of teams anchored by Sorenstam and Maria Hjorth.
Doug Benc/Getty Images

AVENTURA, Fla. (AP) — Beth Bader missed the cut at this week's Stanford International Pro-Am, meaning she should have been long gone by Saturday morning.

Instead, she was on the course at 7:40 a.m., beginning another 18 holes - and, as her teary eyes showed, for a very good reason.

Bader's partner in the Pro-Am was Aaron Theobald, a 23-year-old bartender from Bloomington, Ill., whom she'd never met before this week's play began.

They were a perfect pairing. He's a leukemia survivor. She raises money for cancer research, after losing her mother to the disease in 2004. Earlier this year, Bader organized the first Susan L. Bader Golf Classic, raising $50,000.

So for Bader, there couldn't have been a better reason to play Saturday, even though she wasn't making a cent.

"Hearing Aaron's story, how he's battled what he's battled at such a young age, it obviously touched me and it still touches me," Bader said, crying softly as she spoke minutes after Theobald tapped in for birdie on their final hole. "It was a pleasure playing with him. ... Today was about Aaron and we came through. It was a great day."

A really great day, as it turned out.

The Bader-Theobald team shot a 64 on Saturday in the best-ball handicap format, finishing the tournament 25 under - and winning by three shots. For their efforts, they received a slew of gifts including a Waterford Crystal trophy, watches, airline tickets and a resort stay.

"He played spectacular," Bader said.

He has a spectacular story as well.

Theobald was a 16-year-old high school baseball player when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells and the most common form of leukemia found in children. More than 5,000 people are diagnosed annually with ALL, which can worsen quickly if not treated properly.

He spent eight weeks at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., underwent many rounds of chemotherapy and endured several spinal taps. He was too weak for school at times, and his right hip has already been replaced twice.

A few days ago, the surgeon who replaced his hip gave him a call, saying they needed to talk. Theobald instantly got scared, wondering if a bad spot had popped up on an X-ray or if another surgery was awaiting him.

"When they called me back, I asked them what was going on," Theobald said. "And they told me, 'You know, it's nothing serious. We just had an opening for the Pro-Am down in Miami and wanted to see if you wanted to play."

Now that's the kind of call anyone wouldn't mind getting from a doctor.

Theobald happily accepted, even though the trip to Turnberry Isle meant abandoning plans to visit his aunt, uncle and grandparents in Houston this weekend.

"They understood," said Theobald, who carries a 10 handicap.

On their final hole Saturday, Theobald pushed a 3-wood off to the right, but wound up in a perfect spot - 175 yards from the pin, in the right place to attack the par-5.

He was debating whether to go for the green in two. Bader told him, "This is your time."

His 6-iron landed 4 feet from the cup, and the two-putt birdie left them both thrilled.

"It was my job to kind of keep him cool and relaxed," Bader said. "He did a great job."

On the Net:

Bader Foundation: slbfoundationofhope.org

More From the Web

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN