Exclusive Interview with Davis Love III

In an exclusive interview for Golfer’s Guide, Davis Love III talks about the Heritage Classic, his own Sea Island tournament, golfdavislove.jpg course architecture, the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah and his new Ryder Cup job..

Brad King: As a five-time Heritage Classic champion at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head, you are now hosting a tournament [The McGladrey Classic] at a resort destination [Sea Island, Georgia] just a couple of hours down the road. Do you think your ties with a new PGA TOUR event will affect your relationship with the Heritage?

Davis Love III: The Heritage will always be special to my family and me. We are trying to build on the success and the feel of the Heritage and have another event that is a favorite of the players and their families, and show that the Southeast coast from The Heritage to The Players is a world-class golf destination. It works out great that our event is in the fall, opposite the Heritage’s spring date. It provides another opportunity for golf fans in the Lowcountry to be able to see and enjoy great golf in person.

BK: Not many people remember that you won the Junior Heritage at Harbour Town a few years back.

DL III [laughing]: It was 1982 and definitely my first big win! I actually didn’t win much as a junior or amateur.

BK: You also enjoyed your first PGA TOUR victory at Harbour Town in 1987, along with four subsequent Heritage titles. How do you explain your close connection to this golf course?

DL III: I think I learned to play Harbour Town patiently. The greens are what I grew up putting on. Harbour Town and Seaside [at Sea Island] are very different, but the Bermuda grass is similar and the putting is more natural to me than a player that grew up on bent [grass]. I had some good luck at Harbour Town, and then my confidence on the course just grew.

What do you and your family enjoy doing most on Hilton Head? What are some of your favorite places around the island?

We love the beach and the back yard at our host, Arthur Blank’s, house. You can’t beat Giusseppi’s pizza, and the kids still like putt-putt!

BK: Congratulations on an outstanding second McGladrey Classic [in 2011], which not only enjoyed a thrilling playoff finish between two outstanding young talents [Ben Crane and Webb Simpson], but also received plenty of favorable press, and looked great on TV. [What are] your thoughts on where the tournament finds itself after its sophomore year?

DL III: Thank you. We are thrilled with the success of the event. McGladrey and our foundation team, led by Scott Reid and Mark Love, are great partners and Sea Island is a great host. It’s important to us that the players and sponsors love the week, and we will continue to grow our charity donations. We doubled our donations from year one to this year.

In 2010 you weren’t at Sea Island at the start of tournament week [because] you were wrapping up the Ryder Cup competition in Wales. This year you were able to enjoy everything from start to finish. What were some of the highlights of you and your family’s week during the tournament?

DL III: The highlights this year for me were not only being around to see the building of the event, but also helping with the tournament preparation and getting to see how hard our team works. And, of course, to have [son] Dru caddie for me — that was a real highlight of the week.

BK: Like most high-end golf resorts, Sea Island has been hit hard by the weakened world economy. How has witnessing first-hand the struggles of the resort you’ve called home most of your life affected you?

DL III: Well, it’s been tougher on my close friends, the Jones family, but they have continued to work hard for the community and the employees. We have been thankful that The McGladrey Classic can showcase the resort and show the world that it is fabulous and open for business. We always say all we have to do is get people to Sea Island and they are hooked. The event exposes and shows off the resort to more people than any other type of marketing. And it goes beyond just Sea Island, this event and the media exposure it brings showcases what is great about the entire Golden Isles of Georgia. Over time, we feel it will create an impact on the entire coastal region from Jacksonville to Savannah to Hilton Head.

BK: How have you convinced so many of the TOUR’s up-and-coming stars to move down to St. Simons and Sea Island with you? How would you describe the appeal of the Golden Isles?

DL III: They know how great the golf is, and they may come to play or work on their game. But the people, the churches, schools and the sense of hometown in a resort setting draw them in as a place to raise a family. Our secret got out on TOUR!

BK: You have also carved out quite a favorable reputation for yourself in the field of golf course architecture. What are your feelings about the current state of that industry?

DL III: Like so many businesses, the economy has really hurt [the building of new courses]. We are staying in the game any way we can and hoping to be ready to build on our success when it starts to come back. Right now we are working on a few new holes on The Dunes Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, a course we designed in Mexico that was recently ranked No. 58 in the world. We’re also working on a few other small projects.

BK: We understand one of those smaller projects is consulting with the new owners of Bloody Point over on Daufuskie Island. What can you tell us about Love Golf Design’s upcoming work at Bloody Point?

DL III: We think Bloody Point is a unique golf course with some interesting history, designed by Tom Weiskopf — someone after whom I modeled not only my golf swing, but also a little bit of my business career. But the golf course right now is completely grown over. We are planning to consult with them on getting the course back playable and in good agronomic shape. It’s not a full design project for us, but we always prided ourselves on being flexible enough to meet any owner’s needs.

BK: Have you lobbied at all to design the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro? If you did not get the job, is there an architect you would like to see get it or think most deserves it?

DL III: No, I haven’t lobbied for the job. But I love what Ben Crenshaw is doing now, and Gil Hanse is doing great work.

Your very first architectural design was right here in the Lowcountry at Fripp Island, and you also designed the popular Eagle’s Pointe Golf Club in Bluffton. Why do you think Hilton Head and the Lowcountry of South Carolina have produced so many outstanding golf courses during the past four or five decades?

The Lowcountry is blessed with some great land and weather for golf, which is why the area has had the best developers and architects build there. BK: Though not unexpected, your appointment as U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 2012 is a tremendous honor. [What are] your thoughts on the significance of the job, along with the responsibilities and media spotlight that come with it, too?

DL III: Well, it’s certainly a great honor and I am thrilled to be leading the team. I’m not sure I am ready for the media crush, but [wife] Robin has me ready and organized with the clothes and gifts. She is a great event planner and she has been to 13 matches with me. We have been talking about how we would captain a team if we had the chance for a long time.

OK, so at age 47, perhaps you are not one of the young guns on the PGA TOUR anymore. Nevertheless, you enjoyed a pretty good year out there with them in 2011. Is your 2012 focus more on Davis Love the golfer or Davis Love the Ryder Cup captain?

DL III: We will be ready for the matches as captain — but I will be playing a full schedule and trying to make my team!

BK: How excited are you about playing the 2012 PGA Championship as a former champion at the Ocean Course on nearby Kiawah Island? What are your thoughts about that particular golf course design?

I think it’s great to have a major tournament near home, and on such a great course. I hope my success on Pete Dye courses will come out again. BK: What are your thoughts on the state of the PGA TOUR, post Tiger Woods scandal? Are you generally enthusiastic about the state of the game and the direction the TOUR is heading?

DL III: The TOUR is great; we are growing as other sports are struggling. There are many new sponsors, fans, and a great crop of new young Americans. The players really cannot fathom what a great job [PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim] Finchem has done in a terrible marketplace. BK: Through the Davis Love Foundation, you are active in many charities and good causes, including this year’s inaugural GOLF 9/12 event. What do you hope is your legacy in the game of golf?

DL III: I hope one day it will be said that I was successful in the game while putting my family and faith first, and that I upheld the traditions of the game as my father did. The foundation is just one result of the things that we have learned from players that Robin and I have been mentored by — that we have to use our success and blessings as a platform to benefit people less fortunate, and grow and give back to the game.


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