Love making 25th straight start « The Tour Report

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Davis Love III will never forget how nervous Wayne Gretzky was several years ago when he played with the hockey star and Mike Weir in the final group on Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

“He didn’t ever really want to finish a hole,” Love recalled. “He’d hit a pretty decent drive and he’d go, ‘I’ll pick up.’ He’s like, yeah, I’m out of the hole. I’m in the rough. He was so nervous. You’d think one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports, even if he wasn’t a good golfer or a great golfer, the nerves wouldn’t be a factor for him, and he was just as nervous as he could be. He didn’t want to be in the way.

“… Turn it around the other way, I couldn’t skate up and down the ice very well with people watching. But he was a pretty good golfer. To see a top athlete like that … he had fun but he was more nervous playing in the last group with Mike and I with a chance to win. It took the fun out of it for him.”

Love has seen meltdowns and other amateurs rise to the occasion during the 25 years he has played in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he has won two times. And for the last 23 of those years he has also served as host of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County Golf for Kids pro-am on Monday of tournament week.

Love, who got involved in the pro-am through his friendship with Jim Griggs, a Monterey Peninsula Golf Club member who co-founded the event, almost didn’t get to play this year. But Love, who stays with Griggs each year, rushed to Pebble Beach on Monday after finishing up his round in the Waste Management Phoenix Open in time for the festivities.

“At least I get one trip every year to spend at Pebble Beach and spend with a great friend and also get to play in a great tournament,” Love said. “It’s a week I always look forward to, and one I hope I can continue to play in for a lot more years.”

The friendships that Love has made at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am over the last 25 years are very important to him. He’s playing this week with his long-time partner, Jon Linen of American Express, who returns to the competition after shoulder surgery.

Love said the important thing in any pro-am — much less one of the magnitude of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am which is contested on one of the most iconic courses in the game — is to get the amateurs to relax. 

“I think you’ve just got to get them to focus on playing golf,” Love said. “You don’t want to walk up on the fourth hole and (say), you’ve got a stroke here. You just want them to play, not focus on how many times they’ve helped or how many times have I picked up. You just want them to have fun and play golf. The ones who do well, I think, are relaxed and just play. The ones who don’t do well starting thinking after three holes we’re even and last year we were 3 under after three and we shot 6 the first day. They just start convincing themselves that you have to think about score.

“Successful TOUR players don’t (set) out to try to make the cut. You try to do your best on every hole on every shot. So you try to get them to fall into our mindset. I don’t worry about what happened four holes ago and I don’t worry about what happened last year. … If you can get them to fall into your routine and we just hit it and then we talk about fishing or talk about hunting or look at the waves. They want to hit it and go, now, what do you think about..

“No ,we aren’t think about that, just have fun, how’s the family? We want them to follow whatever our routine is. Some guys don’t want to talk a lot. If you’re playing with Vaughn Taylor, … you probably don’t want to talk a lot because he doesn’t want to talk a lot. But if you’re playing with Rory Sabbatini, you’d better start talking — or listening, one of the two. You try to get your amateur to fit in with your group and have fun.” – Helen Ross

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