Love worries about too many exemptions for his son

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2019

By Doug Ferguson

AP Golf Writer

HONOLULU (AP) — Davis Love III is headed off to play in the Singapore Open, and so is his son.

This will be the 14th time they have played in the same tournament since Davis Love IV — who goes by Dru — turned professional 18 months ago. That doesn’t include the PNC Father-Son Challenge, which they won last month with a record score. Nor does it include the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where Dru played his first major as a qualifier and his father caddied.

Singapore will not be the last tournament they play together.

Success has come slowly for Dru Love. Opportunity has not.

Sponsor exemptions have been viewed with a cynical eye long before Dru Love shot a 65 as a teenager to beat his father for the first time, even before he was a toddler and his father would roll a rubber ball down the grocery store aisles for him to whack when his mother wasn’t looking.

Would it be different if his last name was Smith?

Sure, perhaps in more ways than one.

“If he was Joe Blow, he could just go play,” Love said at the Sony Open, where he tied for seventh at age 54. “He wouldn’t get any spots, but now when he does get a chance … you know, just he tries too hard.”

The pressure on children of famous golfers always comes more from the outside. There is not a long history of success with fathers and sons except for Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, each four-time winners of the British Open when it was the only golf championship around.

Love is sensitive about the criticism his son might face for getting more exemptions than other youngsters trying to make their way. He isn’t lobbying for exemptions. Most times, tournaments bring up the idea of inviting his son.

Singapore was an example. Love normally would play the PGA Tour Champions opener on the Big Island this week. The Singapore Open was appealing because he might make as much or more in appearance money than if he were to stay in Hawaii, his wife had never been to Singapore and wanted to go, and the tournament inquired about Dru.

“They said if Dru doesn’t make it through Q-school, we’ll give him a spot, too,” Love said. “I’d rather him be in the Bahamas.”

The Bahamas is where the Tour is for the opening two weeks of its season.

Dru Love didn’t make it out of the first stage of Web qualifying school last fall. A month later, he shot 64 in the third round of the PGA Tour event at Sea Island and had an outside chance at a top 10 until he stumbled over the back nine.

The talent is there. So is the temptation to swing for the fences.

Love is torn between wanting to lead his son in the right direction and letting him figure it out on his own.

He loves being in the same tournament, and he isn’t the least bit naive to realize that a father-and-son entry — especially when the father is a former PGA champion, two-time Ryder Cup captain and Hall of Famer — is bound to draw attention. That’s what these tournaments need.

But he’d rather see his son start on the ground up, play a full schedule on a lesser tour and get into a rhythm of playing.

“He needs to play at his level,” Love said. “He doesn’t need to go up a level. He needs to be playing his way in Q-school. There’s nothing wrong with that. Thousands of kids do that.”

Thousands of kids are not the son of Davis Love III. Sponsor exemptions to PGA Tour events are difficult to pass up. All it takes is one week.

“I wish he wouldn’t take exemptions and go play somewhere else,” Love said. “He gets tempted. He played John Deere and Barbasol and it messed up his whole summer. He can get offers to go play the Challenge Tour in Europe. They love kids like that. He could have played a lot of tournaments. But he was gearing up to win Barbasol, or get a top 10 and get into the next week. It’s hard.”

It was different when Love started, even though he was known in golf circles through his father, Davis Love Jr., a highly respected golf teacher. Love played on one exemption, the Atlanta Classic, while in school at North Carolina. He turned pro after his junior year and made it through Q-school on the first try.

“It was easy then,” Love said.

He also was very good and very dedicated, but yes, golf wasn’t loaded with as much talent as today.

The father in him wants badly to see his son live up to his potential. But he doesn’t want to dictate to Dru the path he should be taking. Ultimately, the game itself will determine the right way.

“I see things he’s doing that I don’t agree with, and I could tell him all I want. But he’s got to figure it out on his own,” Love said. “At the RSM one year, we had a family argument over something he had done in a tournament. His mom said, ‘Your dad would never do that.’ I said, ‘Look, you don’t have to worry about that. The PGA Tour will take care of that for him.’

“She said, ‘What, they have rules?’ I said, ‘No, they have scores.’”