One of the players Davis Love III looked up to was Fred Couples. And when the PGA Tour’s King of Cool made it into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Love started to think he might have a chance.
“I always looked up to Freddie and tried to hit it as far as him and be as cool as him, but it never worked,” Love said on Tuesday during a news conference prior to Tuesday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street.
Love is now on equal footing with his old friend and Tour running mate – and with the legends who attended, such as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam and the man who introduced Love, Tom Kite.
Amid New York glitz and with nearly three dozen Hall of Fame members watching, Love, the shy kid from St. Simons Island, Ga., joined them to culminate a career that saw him win 21 PGA Tour titles, two Players Championships, the 1997 PGA and legions of fans who were captivated by his length off the tee, his daring on and around the greens and his winning smile.
Joining Love were LPGA stars Meg Mallon and Lorena Ochoa, European PGA Tour veteran Ian Woosnam and legendary golf writer and broadcaster Henry Longhurst.
The ceremony was held away from the Hall of Fame in St. Augustine for the second time. It was at St. Andrews, Scotland two years ago and will be at Pebble Beach, Calif., in 2019.
But Love said that serves a purpose, bringing the Hall of Fame and its message to a global audience.
“I played by the Hall of Fame when it was at Pinehurst [N.C.] as a kid, and then as a PGA Tour board member, watched the move to St. Augustine,” Love said. “And I’ve watched the changes over the last four or five years to try to make it more relevant. To have it at St. Andrews, to have it at New York City, to have it at Pebble Beach … and really show people what an incredible place it is and what an incredible club it is. I’m glad that the changes have been made.”
Love won the 1992 Players, then captured his second title at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course 11 years later, setting a record for the lowest final-round score by a winner with a 64.
His 1997 PGA title at Winged Foot was punctuated by a rainbow that appeared over a gray, soggy New York sky, which immediately brought Love’s father to mind. Davis Love Jr., one of the most revered golf instructors in the U.S., died in a 1988 plane crash near the Jacksonville International Airport, and Love has always linked every accomplishment he’s made on the golf course to the life lessons he got from his father.
Love won four World Cups with Couples as a partner, and won the Tour’s event in Hilton Head, S.C., a record five times. He captained the U.S. Ryder Cup team twice, leading the team over Europe last year at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn.
He has won 34 worldwide tournaments.
Ochoa was asked before the ceremony of her most memorable shot.
She had a one-shot lead on the final hole of the ADT Championship at Trump International, with $1 million going to the winner. She hit a 6-iron from 161 yards out of deep rough and over the water to 30 inches for birdie.
That day, she called it the best shot of her career. Ten years later, she felt the same way.
“I think that one, the pressure … it was to win $1 million,” she said.
Mallon gets two shots. Her fourth major was the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open, which she clinched with an 11-wood for birdie on the 17th hole at The Orchards. She has laughed about it over the years because it was the second straight year the key shot at the Women’s Open was an 11-wood.
“I told you how hard it is to hit a high cut with an 11-wood on the 71st hole of the U.S. Open to win it,” she said with a laugh.
Mallon went back to her first major, the 1991 LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club. She was tied with two other Hall of Famers, Pat Bradley and Ayako Okamoto, when Mallon made a 10-foot birdie to win.
“When you make the putt like that and you get to jump into your caddie’s arms and have that moment, it was really cool,” she said.