In the corner of Davis Love III’s home office is a collection of trophies and keepsakes, the spoils of 21 PGA Tour victories and 30 years playing the game at the highest level that culminated Tuesday with his inclusion in the 2017 class of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Whether by design or dumb luck, that haphazard mantel tells two stories of his now hall-of-fame career.
There is the tale of the prodigy whose famous father, renowned club professional Davis Love Jr., groomed his lanky son for greatness from the moment he first picked up a club.
He was a can’t-miss kid, earning his Tour card straight out of college and winning a year later in Hilton Head. Love would make a habit out that, hoisting the Heritage hardware five times in his career.
From 1986 to ’99 he won 13 times and claimed his lone major, the 1997 PGA Championship, and one of his two Players titles in the previous millennium.
During those days that now seem like another lifetime, he was a staple on every American team, from the Ryder Cup to the World Cup, where he teamed with Fred Couples to win four times.
But as impressive as that opening act was, it’s what Love has accomplished, and overcome, since reaching what some see as a professional golfer’s golden years that’s truly inspiring.
Since turning 40 in 2004, Love has penned an entirely new and different chapter. He won his 20th Tour title in ’08 at Walt Disney World, and in his signature honesty admitted on that fall Sunday that he worried his time in the winner’s circle had passed.
“You always question, am I doing the right things and can I still do it and why am I doing it? Why am I pounding balls on the back of the range?” Love said following that landmark victory.
Idle hands and often-questionable health has been Love’s primary opponent over the latter years of an eventful career.
He had surgery in 2013 to help relieve numbness and weakness caused by spinal stenosis and joint bone spurs in his neck, the byproduct of a lifetime of activity – lots of golf, paddle boarding and hunting – and was also sidelined in 2014 following another surgery on his right foot.
The day after foot surgery he was back in the gym. To those closest to Love it was no surprise that 5 1/2 months after doctors rebuilt his right foot and seven years after winning his 20th Tour title, he won No. 21 at age 51 at the Wyndham Championship, his third victory in Greensboro, N.C.
Love has always been at his best when the challenge was the greatest, and history will show there may not have been a greater test than this year’s Ryder Cup.
Called back to captain for the second time, Love oversaw the makeover of the U.S. Ryder Cup selection process and the institutional change of direction following the American team’s 2014 loss in Scotland.
Critics never entirely coalesced behind Love’s second turn as captain. He was, after all, in charge in 2012 when the American side blew the biggest lead in history on Sunday at Medinah. But at Hazeltine, he was the right man for what was a uniquely difficult job.
“Davis was the right guy to put that plan in place,” Jim Furyk said following this month’s U.S. victory. “We sat in a meeting and we tried to identify the qualities of the next captain and Davis Love fit the bill and fit all those qualities to a ‘T.’”
For the U.S. team, Love was unassuming and uninterested in what happened in the past; he was decisive when he needed to be, inclusive at other times. He was, as some have billed him, the captain’s captain in the twilight of what has been a remarkable second career.
Whichever resume paved the way to his induction in the World Golf Hall of Fame on Tuesday – be it his competitive prowess early in his career, the statesman-like aura that defined his later years or a combination of the two chapters – Love’s inclusion in the class of 2017 is commendable.