NEWS

Davis Love III a popular figure at the Wells Fargo Championship

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From retirees to 6-year-olds -- and everyone in between -- Monday's debut of the Wells Fargo Championship turned out to be a near-perfect day.

Despite a steady breeze that claimed a few hats and a couple of threatening clouds, the PGA Tour's first day in New Hanover County since 1971 live up to, and beyond, some expectations.

"It was all about fun today," said David Mann, whose family of six walked out with plenty of autographs. "A good day for them to be out there."

Sandy Rutledge was part of a healthy crowd, estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 by course officials. She followed Davis Love III -- one of her favorite golfers -- for nearly half his round at the day's Pro-Am. Like many, it was her first time around the course.

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Love was the main attraction from a player standpoint, and his group had a solid following on the front nine before the crowd started dissipating as evening began to fall.

But Rutledge, who lives in Olde Point Country Club in Hampstead, stuck around through the back nine. She even got Love to sign her grounds pass.

"He is such a gentleman," she said. "I told him I thought he was wonderful. He spends a lot of time with his family and plays the game the right way. He is a lot like Fred Couples."

Rutledge was impressed with how much time Love spent interacting with fans. He signed countless autographs and posed for photos.

"I know it's that day, but there are some of the younger guys that were trying to get a feel for the course," she said. "I'm sure he was doing that too, but he's just so polite."

For Mann, his wife Louise and their four sons -- William, 10; twins Cully and Carter, 8 and Henry, 6 -- it was worth a day off school before heading out of town this weekend.

"We figured this was a one-time opportunity and we had to take advantage," Mann said. "Plus we had some friends in the Pro-Am, so it all made sense."

Three of the boys play regularly, though William took in the golf intently, his dad said.

"He loves watching them tee off," David said. "And they're amazed how long the holes are."

Much of the field will be on the course on Tuesday, with more opportunities for autographs and interaction. The hopes of winning and losing start Thursday, but Mann said he's suddenly got a house divided.

"They'll say Phil Mickelson, maybe Dustin Johnson," David said before Cully gave his updated pick for a winner: "Davis Love."

 

 

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