Love story plays out at Sea Island, McGladrey

Davis Love III at the McGladrey Classic

Davis Love III at the McGladrey Classic

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Davis Love III stood on the 18th green at Sea Island’s Seaside Course after one of the most fulfilling tournaments of his distinguished professional career. No, he didn’t win. The 46-year-old Love, owner of a major and his fair share of tournaments, handed out the silver trophy to the champion, Heath Slocum, this time. Having finished his final duties as tournament chairman and host of the McGladrey Classic, Love swelled with pride. He waved his right arm and pointed in the direction of the first fairway and said, “I have a picture of me out there with a little bitty club and I’m whacking a ball in the fairway with my dad. We were here on vacation. I couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old. To think of that and now to be the chairman of this tournament – on this course where we grew up – well…”

And without finishing his sentence, the stories began and the years melted away. First he spoke of his father, renowned instructor Davis Jr. The year was 1978, and his dad was given a blank slate to start the first Golf Digest instructional school anywhere in the country he wanted. He chose Sea Island.

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McGladrey Classic winner Heath Slocum and Davis Love III

This is where Davis has played more rounds than he can remember, dating long before Seaside’s renovation in 1999. But many of them came at a price.

“Our course superintendent said, ‘If you want to play in the afternoons, you’ve got to work for me in the morning.’ He gave us a bucket and a big hook knife and we sat and cut crabgrass out of the green,” Love recalled. “No one was happier to see (Tom) Fazio blow this place up than me.”

When the laughter stopped, the flood of memories continued. “The old St. Simons Island Club that is now the Retreat Course,” he said, “I went from cart attendant there as a kid to re-designing the place with my brother, Mark.”

You got the sense Davis could go on all night. Soon Mark, who served as the executive director of the McGladrey Classic, joined in noting that the tournament office was headquartered in the “Corn Barn,” the old clubhouse where as boys they had learned to talk about the game at the foot of their father.

“To be in that building,” he said, “and running the tournament out of it, well…”

Like his brother, Mark Love couldn’t quite capture the depth of his feelings in words but his smile said as much as most people say in an hour-long phone call. With each tale it became more evident how the Love legacy ran long and deep in the community. Davis long ago became a source of civic pride. In these parts, he is the don of “the Sea Island Mafia,” a growing contingent of players who call this picturesque corner of southeast Georgia along the Intracoastal Waterway home.

It’s been a dream for Love to bring the PGA Tour to his adopted hometown. Something he and Sea Island Co. chairman and CEO Bill Jones III had talked about for years. No doubt golf has been good to Love, lining his pockets. No doubt that four terms on the Tour policy board gave Love a certain amount of pull with the commish and the know-how to get things done. This was his chance to give back. So the Davis Love Foundation served as the host organization, and Special Olympics and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia will be the beneficiaries.

The addition of the McGladrey Classic to the Tour’s Fall Series was announced in January, which didn’t leave much time for planning. A month later, Corey Pavin asked Love to serve as an assistant Ryder Cup captain. Love knew it meant cutting into his preparation for his host duties. But he never expected the Ryder Cup to be pushed back until Monday. Love refused to allow his whirlwind week to spoil any of the festivities. He and wife Robin flew back from Wales on Monday night and landed Tuesday just in time to head straight to the pro-am party hosted at their house.

“The band was already playing,” Love said.

That’s right: Any amateur who ponied up for the pro-am was invited to the Love’s home for some good, ol’ fashioned Southern hospitality. There, Love hosted 300 of his newest and closest friends with a big assist from 22-year-old daughter Lexie, who helped with the arrangements while he and his wife were at the Ryder Cup (she also interned for the tournament over the summer).

John Burke, Love’s former caddie, texted Love and joked, “I’m scratching your name off as official host and writing Lexie Love underneath it.”

Yes, this was a true family affair. Mark’s wife, Lynn, co-chaired the hospitality services, and their 11-year-old daughter Lizzie, helped in the media office, stuffing envelopes well past her bedtime.

“Dru Love ended up not doing all that much,” Davis said of his son. “Neither did Lowery Love,” Mark chirped of his boy wonder, “but the girls were there for us.”

Well ... boys will be boys. In their own special way, they all pitched in, and they did it with love.

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