News & Opinion

Sea Island welcomes PGA Tour with double dose of Love

Mark Love plays a key role at the RSM Classic, where his older brother, Davis, may or may not be the top draw of the week

SEA ISLAND, Ga. – Welcome to the last PGA Tour stop of the year, the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort.

One marquee name always has been attached to this event, so it seemed like a good idea to chat with the man who has made golf his life for the past four decades and still is going strong, the nice-guy type who’s really the force behind it all: Mark Love.

Mark Love, the RSM Classic’s executive director, has spent a lifetime at Sea Island Resort.

You may know his older brother, Davis, who played tournament golf and won a few small events over the years. Davis is still fooling around on the course and, at 55, is playing in this week’s field, too (tee times).

Mark, the RSM Classic’s executive director, clearly is the real star whom people are buying tickets to see this week. He spent some time with Morning Read on Tuesday.

Gary Van Sickle: Is Davis resentful of all the extra attention you’ve gotten your whole life?
Mark Love: Nah, he lets it roll right off. He doesn’t notice. He’s got a pretty thick skin.

GVS: He’s so good at that, it’s almost as if more people recognize him. So, what are the pros and cons of being the last PGA Tour stop of the year?
ML: Weather-wise, this November date is a tossup. We were the second week of October our first year [2010], which leaves you a little susceptible to a late-season hurricane.

GVS: Are you allowed to say “hurricane”? Isn’t that like not uttering the dreaded Y-word when you’re talking about putting?
ML: I should, but it’s hard to avoid. The November date moves us into possible cold weather but moves us out of, to put it appropriately then, the wet weather.

GVS: That’s more politically correct.
ML: For the players, now we’re up against the European Tour Championship, so we miss getting some European players. But overall, being the week before Thanksgiving, having a larger field, our laid-back community and family-friendly atmosphere is a nice way to wind up the year. Our child-care facility is fabulous.

GVS: So, your baby cages are solidly built?
ML: Yes, they are.

GVS: How about recruiting players?
ML: Our field has stayed the same even though our dates have changed. Guys know they have to play some in the fall; they can’t skip them all. Football obviously affects us, but that’s true for every fall tournament.

GVS: Is that sunken ship just offshore an attraction you thought of? Is that a party boat? The Love Boat? (Note: In September, a cargo ship capsized just offshore from the resort and is still there, visible from the practice range.)
ML: It’s a talking point. No, we had nothing to do with that. That ship is going to be there for a couple of years, apparently. They’re saying they can’t right the ship, so they’re going to have to take it apart.

GVS: But my car is in there.
ML: Somebody’s car is in there. (Note: About 4,000 Hyundai and Kia cars were on the vessel.) It happened overnight. We went out and looked at it the next morning when we came in. It was scary at first; there were still some guys onboard. It was crazy to watch the national news and see it right here in our backyard. Thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt.

GVS: When was the first time you caddied for Davis?
ML: When Davis and I were in college, he left after his third year and went to Myrtle Beach for Q-School [in 1985]. He needed a caddie there, so I caddied for him and he got through. The second stage of Q-School was at Grenelefe and he said, “Well, we got through the first one together. You’ve got to come to the second one.” He got his card, and his first tour caddie was Herman Mitchell, who caddied for Lee Trevino. So, whenever Lee played, Herman worked for him, so Davis would see if I was available.

GVS: So, Herman got to ride two pretty good horses.
ML: Davis needed somebody at his first Masters, in 1988. We’ve got a picture somewhere of he and I and my dad at Augusta. It was sporadic for a few years after that. My first full year as caddie was 1991, when I was teaching for Jack Lumpkin here at the performance center. Somehow, the concept came up of me going out with Davis on tour in 1992. He won the Players, Hilton Head and Greensboro. That was a big year for him.

GVS: That was the year he got edged by Fred Couples in a playoff at Riviera, too.
ML: That’s right. That was my first event of that ’92 year. I’ll never forget coming home on a red-eye flight after that disappointment time. But he won a couple more times later in what we called the Silly Season at the end of the year, at Kapalua and the Shark Shootout.

GVS: Did you point out to Davis that the second you showed up, it began what we called the Summer of Love and Couples?
ML: I did not, but we had great memories that year. They started a streak of four straight World Cup wins. After 1992, we did a golf shop-distribution thing for a few years, then I came back on the bag for Davis in 1995 through 2000. By then, we had the golf course-design business going and my second child had been born. I backed off a little.

GVS: You’ve got an actual office here in the clubhouse at Sea Island. What other jobs are you responsible for?
ML: Zach Johnson helped introduce RSM to Sea Island. RSM had wanted to enter the PGA Tour space but hadn’t found a fit. The pieces eventually came together. Davis asked me, “Do you think we can piece this together?” It all happened pretty quickly.

GVS: How are you as a golf instructor? And did you ever work with anyone in the family who amounted to anything?
ML: That was one reason I went on the bag with Davis in the first place. I was working with Jack Lumpkin, his teacher. Back then, it’s not like now where instructors travel all the time. Davis was like, “If you come on the road, you can make sure I’m doing what Jack is trying to get me to do.” That was the catalyst. I worked with just a handful of other guys. Technology has passed me by now. I was out of it long enough not to be super-current with TrackMan and all the stuff. I’m very old-school.

GVS: What was your most memorable caddie moment?
ML: I was much younger then, so my nerves were better. Davis talks about staying calm on the last couple of holes of the 1997 PGA Championship that he won at Winged Foot. I was trying to stuff my emotions down to help him stay calm the last few holes. I’m not sure if I remember it live or if I remember it from the replay. I just saw a clip of us on the 18th hole recently, I think when Davis was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame. You can hear Davis and I talking in the fairway at 18. I’ve got the umbrella in hand. I’m saying, “Hey, just one more good shot. You’ve got the right club,” whatever it was.

GVS: You kept it mundane and acted like it was just another shot, instead of saying, “Davis, just stay calm!”
ML: Exactly.

GVS: How calm and collected were you inside?
ML: Not at all. I feel like I can hear it in my voice there in the clip. Maybe he didn’t pick up on it. At least, that’s what he says.

GVS: What was your most memorable caddie gaffe that stuck in your craw the longest?
ML: The most painful was the 1996 U.S. Open that Davis lost when he three-putted the last hole. We did all of our preparations. The wind blew a certain direction all week in the practice rounds. He’d been hitting a 1-iron off the first tee to avoid some bunkers and then have a middle-iron in. All of a sudden, the wind switched the first day; you could drive it past all that. So, we hit driver. Even though I had it in the yardage book, we’d been 80 yards short of there all week. I gave him a bad number. He hit it right over the TV tower on the first hole of the Open. He wound up making a pretty darned good bogey.

GVS: One shot into the U.S. Open and you’ve already mis-clubbed him. That’s got to be a bad feeling.
ML: Even though there were a lot of holes between the first hole and the 72nd when he three-putted to lose by one, it hurt. To this day, I can’t believe his first putt on the final green came up short; he was 30 or 40 feet behind the hole. There’s no way that ball doesn’t get all the way to the hole going down that slope, but it hung up 4 feet short. He’s always said he hit as good a putt as he could on the second one; it just didn’t go in.

GVS: Did Davis ever comment about your opening-hole mis-club?
ML: Not at the time. He’s always been big on taking the responsibility for anything.

GVS: How long did he wait to mention it?
ML: A long, long time.

GVS: Ten years?
ML: Something like that. You just hope you did a lot of things right in the middle holes there that helped, but the mistake sticks with you.

GVS: So, about this week’s RSM Classic, whom do you like to win: Sebastian Cappelen, Vincent Whaley or Cameron Davis?
ML (laughing): I couldn’t say I know enough about any of them. There are so many good young players, it’s hard to keep up with them.

GVS: What are your official duties this week?
ML: Really, it’s managing the business of the tournament on a year-round basis. This week, it’s a little of everything – whatever needs to be done.

GVS: Such as handling media requests. Have you considered leaving Davis a note that says, “Sorry, the field is already full. You’re out.”
ML (laughing): No, no. We’ve got to make sure he plays.

GVS: Well, I notice you have a coaster on your desk with the tournament logo that says, “RSM Classic Hosted by Davis Love III.” You should have a dozen made up that say, “RSM Classic Hosted by Mark Love” and give them to him for Christmas. It’s the perfect gift for the man who has everything.
ML: There you go.

GVS: By the way, congratulations for having such a nice office.
ML: This was the original clubhouse. Dad was an instructor here, so he didn’t work in the shop, but Davis and I grew up in this building. We had Sunday dinners in the dining room, where the media center is now. The pro shop and the locker room were down here where my office is. It’s interesting, 40 years ago, I was bopping around this place and learning to play the game. To have an office here and to help redesign a second course here – the first one we did was almost 20 years ago, believe it or not – and to have the tournament and what it means to the community, it’s all pretty cool.

GVS: So, you’ve been in the same place for 40 years. In other words, you basically haven’t had a promotion.
ML: Nope. I’m still here in the old barn.