ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GEORGIA | Late in the afternoon when the shadows had begun to creep across the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort and the autumn chill was riding a soft breeze off the water, Davis Love III called up a photograph on his phone.
He was talking about this being the 10th anniversary of the RSM Classic, the tournament he and others brought to life in this sandy sliver of heaven. Like so many other things, it happened too fast.
“It hits you in different ways at different times. It hit me last night. I got this picture (and) there’s all these names on this big board.” Love says, dialing up a shot of the back side of a hospitality venue with the names of the nine tournament winners listed, each one from Heath Slocum to Charles Howell III.
When it was suggested to Love that he turn around, the 55-year-old tournament host/heartbeat realized he was standing directly in front of the highway-sized sign in the photograph.
“These are way better this year because last year it was (my picture) on there,” Love says, looking at the display.
The RSM Classic wouldn’t exist were it not for Love, along with his brother Mark and their families. It’s not the biggest nor richest nor most star-driven event on the PGA Tour but, while it sounds like a Hallmark Channel tagline, it’s full of Love.
He admitted to being nervous about how the tour players would receive the beautiful renovation the Love brothers’ course design company did on Sea Island’s Plantation Course, which the tournament employs along with the Seaside Course during the first two rounds. They freshened it up while incorporating classic design elements highlighted by grass-faced, flat-bottomed bunkers.
This is his place, his family’s place, where the prodigy turned patriarch.
It’s no surprise that Love is headed to television work. It fits him as naturally as his golf swing does.
Love teed it up again in the RSM Classic but he’s in the midst of a career transition, two months from his official debut as a member of the CBS Sports golf broadcast team. Love will continue to play tournament golf – probably 15 events a year split fairly evenly between the PGA Tour and the Champions circuit – but he will be working for someone other than himself when his television job begins.
He won’t try to replace Gary McCord’s humor or Peter Kostis’ instant swing analyses. Love will do what he does best – be himself.
A friend suggested he will have to sharpen some of the Southern influences he uses in conversation – properly saying someone is playing well though out of geographic predisposition he says they’re playing good – without losing himself in speaking the king’s English. ‘here’
It wouldn’t be a shock if Love were to invoke that classic Southernism – “bless their heart” – if he sees someone in a bad way though he’s more likely to borrow from his wife, Robin, who is partial to “God love ’em.”
“I’m having to learn some different phrases,” Love says.
For more than 20 years, he’s been a close friend of Lance Barrow, the longtime producer of CBS golf coverage, sharing lunches and dinners with him and others on the TV crew. Love is smart and insightful, and he has the gift of being able to get to the heart of the matter in conversation.
Five years ago, Love explains, NBC Sports golf producer Tommy Roy approached him.
“(Roy) said, ‘I know you’re going to work for Lance but will you at least give us a shot,’ ” Love says. “I said, ‘It’s not a done deal.’ They did give me a shot and they went with Paul (Azinger).”
Next month, Love will find himself in a studio someplace learning the television business with a headset on. He was with Barrow, producer Jim Rikhoff and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus at the Masters a few years ago when they offered Tony Romo the lead analyst job on NFL games.
“They were just buddies of mine before and now they’re my bosses. I said, ‘How do you know Tony Romo is going to be that good? He just got done playing. He’s never done this before,’ ” Love recalls.
“They go, ‘One, we know he’s going to be really good. We’re no dummies. And, two, we’re going to work with him before football season.’ ”
Now it’s Love turn to be taught. He doesn’t know yet whether he will be on the ground like Kostis was or in a booth like McCord was. He intends to work all but two of the CBS tournaments next year, asking off to play the RBC Heritage (which he has won five times) and the Wyndham Championship, which he won as a 51-year-old. If he misses the cut in those events, Love doesn’t expect to work the weekend in a TV tower.
“Lance has beat this into me for a long time – you can’t do both,” Love says.
Love laughs at himself, recalling times when he’s needled other pros who climb 30 feet into a television tower and suddenly become experts. That’s his new world.
“What I’ve said in defense of these guys is it must be really hard to do because there’s not that many people that are really that good at it,” Love says.
“That’s why I want to go listen to Henry Longhurst from the Masters and listen to Dave Marr because they had a way of saying something without saying a whole lot of words. They were short and sweet. Ben (Crenshaw) knew everything and you loved to listen to him but he couldn’t get it into 20 seconds they gave him to talk.”
As a Sea Island sunset approaches, Love turns toward a corporate tent where a pro-am party is underway. He’s expected to stop in and say a few words.
Short and sweet.
Words he will learn to live by soon.
Top: Country music artist Jake Owen and Davis Love III finish their pro-am round at the 2017 RSM Classic.