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A Major Love Affair

Davis Love III turns his passion toward capturing one of golf's Grand Slam tournaments.
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Claudia Schiffer, Jul/Aug 97

(continued from page 1)

And there are his cigars. What started as a curiosity more than five years ago has become a passion. He has a separate room in his house for cigar smoking, a glassed-in porch with a separate air conditioning system to keep the smoke away from the children. In the new house that room will be even bigger, and there will be a bigger cellar for his wines. Life is good when, at the end of a day of practice or a day of hunting, he sits down to a maduro or his beloved La Gloria Cubanas along with a glass of red wine.

One of Love's best friends on the tour, Brad Faxon, takes credit for introducing Love to the delights of cigars and showing him that they aren't merely for chasing away the bugs. While Faxon and Love were playing in the Johnnie Walker World Championship of Golf in 1992, they and their families were staying at Tryall, the exclusive Jamaican resort. In the villa they shared was a box of what apparently were fairly old cigars. They smoked them and discovered that they were little better than bug chasers. Faxon, who had been a cigar smoker for a short while, convinced Love that they should find better cigars, some Macanudos or Partagas. They did, and Love found how much pleasure there was in a good smoke.

"When he likes something, he becomes an authority on it," says Faxon. "He doesn't do anything half-assed. He reads about it. Studies it. He remembers everything. Davis took to cigars just like he took to wine. We bought cigars at the duty-free shop at the Jamaica airport, and he's been an aficionado ever since."

One thing for sure, when Love isn't attacking a golf course, he's attacking life head-on. Golf is the biggest part of his life, but he isn't about to devote every second to it. There are golf courses to design, deer to hunt, bass to catch and, of course, a family to care for. All of life is precious to Davis Love, even more so because of the death of his father.

In 1988 Love and Robin went to Hawaii late in the season for the nonofficial tournament at Kapalua, an easygoing, easy-money event that is especially popular with the wives. A few days before going to Hawaii, his father, the only teacher Love had ever had, suggested that if he wanted to take his game to the next level, he ought to think about finding another instructor. He was concerned that he was no longer capable of motivating his son or of finding that little something in his swing or in his psyche that would allow him to win major golf tournaments.

Davis Love II was not a great player in his own right, though he did contend in the 1964 Masters, just days before Davis III was born. But he had become a nationally recognized golf instructor who traveled the United States giving high-profile clinics. While his son was en route to Hawaii for the Kapalua tournament, the elder Davis would be going to Jacksonville with two other pros to conduct a golf school. Davis Love II never made it. The private plane that was carrying the three pros crashed into a pine forest short of the Jacksonville Airport, killing all aboard.

From the day he started playing the game, Davis Love III seemed destined to be good, and possibly great. At least that's what his father envisioned. He had lived for the son and now, as Christmas of 1988 approached, the son would have to live for the father. Gone were the long, sometimes tedious nights at the range with dad driving the son to just hit one more shot, just try this little maneuver, just move your fingers a hair this way, just put the ball back in your stance a little. Gone were the nights when the father, having kept notes on yellow legal pads, would sit with the son and go over every detail to the extent that the son would want to run away screaming.

"Golf changed for me when my father died," says Love. "From that time on, some of the pure love and joy of the game went out of me. I was motivated to practice hard and to play hard to win. I wanted to win because of him. But I think it became just a little more work than it was before."

As Love started to win tournaments in the '90s, it became increasingly more frustrating that he was unable to even contend in a major. In the 27 majors he had played through 1994, he had failed to finish higher than 11th and had missed the cut 11 times. That was an especially poor record for a player who seemed to have so much ability. After all, he could hit the ball a hundred miles, his 6-foot-3 frame producing a huge and powerful swing arc. He had soft hands, and the short game didn't seem to be much of a problem. If anything, he was an erratic iron player, especially with the short irons. It's not uncommon for big hitters to have trouble with the little clubs. Realizing he needed to improve this aspect of his game, Love hired Jack Lumpkin to be his new coach. Lumpkin worked on cutting down his swing, harnessing his power both to make him more accurate and to gain better feel.

Fate often intervenes. And so it did in 1995. Love had played poorly in 1994 and hadn't qualified for the 1995 Masters. The only way that he could get an invitation to the Masters was by winning the final tour event the week before it at New Orleans. He did.

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