Love is everywhere at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — The first golf lesson Davis Love Jr. gave to his son was to swing hard and keep his feet on the ground.
Davis Love III passed that down to his own son, using different equipment.
“We had this little ball that he had to pull out of that big basket that was always at the grocery store,” Love III said Tuesday. “I would roll it to him and he would hit while it was rolling. Once he did it four or five times, we both got in trouble with (wife) Robin. But once I saw him do it, I said, ‘There is no better way to get hand-eye coordination and free up your swing.’ He did some little things at a young age that really got him swinging free.
“I just took what my dad told me,” he said. “Let’s just swing for the fence and then we’ll kind of reign you in later on.”
The RSM Classic at Sea Island will be the 720th time Love has played on the PGA Tour, and it’s safe to say there hasn’t been another event like this one.
Davis Love IV — everyone calls him Dru — will be playing with him.
The 21-year-old earned the final exemption on Sunday by winning a qualifier among four players with local ties. Love birdied the opening four holes and never looked back.
The PGA Tour each week massages a few groups to create interest, and the final event of the season presented an obvious option. Teeing off together Thursday on the Seaside Course will be Davis Love III, Davis Love IV and Justin Thomas.
Thomas doesn’t have a Roman numeral attached to his name, though there’s a strong connection. He helped recruit Dru Love to Alabama, and remains so close to the family that he stays with Love during the tournament. He was supposed to stay in Dru Love’s room until the son got an exemption, so Thomas got bumped to the sister’s room.
The RSM Classic could have just given the spot to Dru Love and it wouldn’t have raised too much of a stink. The field was expanded to 156 players by using two courses. The last player to get in was Mark Hensby as a past champion (2004 John Deere Classic). He’s No. 960 in the world and hasn’t played a full schedule since 2011.
Dru Love won the Georgia State Amateur this year and won a college tournament in Puerto Rico.
Even so, his dad felt compelled to make him work for it, as always. He never overloaded his son with a full slate of junior events, and he was reluctant to use the Love name to get him exemptions.
“Every big amateur tournament or junior tournament he’s gotten in, he’s earned his way in or been at a level that he belonged there and he wasn’t put under pressure,” Love said. He paused to smile before adding, “Maybe this week he might have stepped over his head.”
It was obvious nonetheless how delighted Love was to have his son in the field.
“Before we start,” Love said at a news conference with his son, “there’s a white pickup truck blocking the office with an Alabama sticker on it. If anybody knows who parked right in front of the media center ...”
“That was me,” the son said with his chin lowered.
Golf always has been a family affair with the Loves.
Davis Love Jr. was an esteemed golf professional who died in a plane crash in 1988, a year after his son won the first of 21 titles in a PGA Tour career that includes a PGA Championship and nine Ryder Cup appearances — six as a player, one as an assistant and twice as the U.S. captain.
Love’s brother, Mark, runs their golf course design business and is the executive director of the tournament.
The only sobering part of the week is Penta Love won’t be here to watch her son and grandson playing together on the PGA Tour. She suffered a stroke last week and is going through therapy at a hospital an hour away in Jacksonville, Florida. Love lamented that his mother has no movement in her left arm and might not be able to play golf again. She’s 88 and amazingly active.
Love said his mother gave Dru his first club, and the boy took it from there.
Nothing comes easily in golf, even for the sons of great players. Dru Love was attracted to tour life from a young age, but what appealed to him was the work that went into being successful. He always had power — swing hard and keep your feet on the ground — and found polish in his years playing for a powerhouse like Alabama.
One moment he won’t forget was two years ago when he beat his father for the first time.
The son was playing so well that when they stopped for lunch, his father jokingly asked for it to be a long meal to cool off the kid. No such luck.
“Got to the back nine and on 18, he made a 40-footer and I made a 30-footer for eagle,” Dru Love said. “After mine went in, we looked at each other and he said, ‘What was that for?’ I said, ’65. What was yours for?′ He said, ’66, and turned around and walked off.”