ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. -- Davis Love III was on the PGA Tour Policy Board when the modern version of the World Golf Hall of Fame was created. Observing former commissioner Deane Beman's vision from the ground floor, it never occurred to Love that he might one day be enshrined.
"While we were working on the transition of the Hall of Fame from [Pinehurst] North Carolina to St. Augustine, people would mention to me, 'you'll be in there one day,'" Love said. "I'd just laugh. To me the Hall of Fame was Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. It wasn't me."
Oh, yes it is.
Love will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Tuesday during the 2017 induction ceremony at the Cipriani in New York, along with LPGA stars Lorena Ochoa and Meg Mallon, Masters champion and European Tour veteran Ian Woosnam and golf writer and broadcaster Henry Longhurst.
The Class of 2017 swells the ranks of the Hall of Fame to 155 members.
Love, a resident of St. Simons Island, Ga., since he was 15 years old, has solid Hall of Fame credentials. He has won 21 times on the PGA Tour, highlighted by two Players Championship victories in 1992 and 2003 and the PGA Championship in 1997. Love played on 12 U.S. national teams that competed in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup and he has been a Ryder Cup captain twice, winning last year at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn., America's second victory in nine playings of the match-play event against Europe.
Love won four World Cups (with Hall of Fame member Fred Couples as a partner) and has 34 worldwide victories. He is ninth on the PGA Tour's career money list with more than $44.5 million.
Hall is about more than golf
More than hardware and career earnings, Love has established a legacy of class and gentlemanly behavior.
He and his wife Robin have raised millions for charity, much of it through the RSM Classic, the PGA Tour event at the Sea Island Resort that he has hosted since 2010. Love has been honored with the Payne Stewart Award from the PGA Tour, the Bob Jones Award from the USGA and the Jim Murray Award from the Golf Writers Association of America.
He is beloved by fans, respected by media and revered by fellow players.
"We take our cue from Davis in how to conduct ourselves as professionals," fellow St. Simons Island resident Zach Johnson said last year after Love's election to the Hall.
Love is nearly an institution in the Golden Isles, raising both of his children there and remaining loyal to the Sea Island Club, where his father taught and where his son Dru, who turned professional this year, learned to play the game.
He remembers seeing an interview with former European PGA Tour chief executive Ken Schofield before he went into the Hall of Fame, which made him realize the honor is not all about making the most birdies in the biggest tournaments.
"Ken was talking about how the Hall of Fame is more about what you do your whole golfing life," Love said. "I won enough tournaments to be eligible but I wanted to do more than win. I wanted to be like Tom Kite [who will introduce Love on Tuesday] and Ben Crenshaw and Byron Nelson, guys who were about so much more than the tournaments they won. Maybe it's why I got in. It's more than just the golf."
Moving to Golden Isles was pivotal
Love was born to be involved in golf in some manner. His father, Davis Love Jr., was a career club professional and teacher, and a good enough player to qualify for the Masters twice.
A key moment in Love's life came when his father decided to go into teaching full-time and moved the family from Atlanta to St. Simons Island to lead the instructional staff at the Sea Island Resort.
Love said something that could have been difficult -- tearing him away from friends and school -- turned out to be a blessing on a career and a personal basis.
"It was a crucial time for me, being in my high school years," Love said. "But I was getting to the point where I had to take golf seriously, or goof off. I poured myself into it and had more time to spend with my Dad than we had in Atlanta."
Love also met a cheerleader at Glynn Academy named Robin, who later became his wife and the mother of their two children. Their daughter Lexi made them grandparents three years ago.
The slow-paced life of the Golden Isles has always suited Love and his family.
"I don't like big-city crowds and traffic," he said. "I like the outdoors, fishing and hunting. I like the water. It's a friendly atmosphere and a good community with good schools and good churches."
Love mentors young pros
Love also has been largely responsible for a steady succession of PGA Tour stars moving to St. Simons to take advantage of the facilities at the Sea Island Resort, and the kind of small-town coastal life Love enjoys so much.
Jonathan Byrd, Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hudson Swafford, Harris English and Brian Harman are just a few of the players who now live in the area. Almost all of them rely on Love as a mentor and even a father figure.
"He's been the Pied Piper," said Mac Barnhardt, Love's long-time agent and friend.
Barnhardt said Love is a classic example of not being changed by success.
"He's still the same guy I knew when we met at the North and South," Barnhardt said of the famed North Carolina amateur event, where the two competed. "The thing about Davis is that he still wonders what all the fuss is about. We'll get an interview request or someone will want to meet him and he'll ask me, 'why do they want to talk to me?' It's not that he doesn't want to do it. He honestly thinks he's not that big a deal."
True to that sentiment, Love said going into the Hall of Fame is more important because of what his father meant to him. Davis Love Jr., died in a 1988 plane crash near the Jacksonville International Airport and Love said every victory has been a tribute of sorts to how his father nurtured and developed him.
"That's what makes this all worthwhile, knowing how Dad would be proud," Love said.
And Love has tried to live his life according to the best advice his father ever gave him.
"Follow your dream and enjoy the trip," Love said his father often told him.
The dream and the trip have now taken Love to golf's highest honor.
This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.