Happiness isn’t about winning

Professional golfer overcomes tragedy and sporting losses to enjoy golf and life

Davis Love tees off
Davis Love tees off during the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, 19th August 2012

With 20 PGA tour wins, including one major win, winning the world cup four years in a row, and captaining the 2012 Ryder Cup team, after making the team six times previously, Davis Love III could be excused for wanting to take it easy.

Instead, the 48 year old professional golfer recently underwent neck surgery so he can keep playing.

Entering the PGA tour in 1985, Love earned a lifetime exemption in 2008, after winning his 20th tournament.

Love’s passion for golf was passed on to him from his father, Davis Love II. In fact, he was born the day after his father competed in the 1964 Masters tournament.

Sadly, Davis Love II was killed in a plane crash in 1988, so he did not get to see the accomplishments of his eldest son, or the collaboration between him and younger brother Mark, as they went on to design acclaimed golf courses through Love Golf Design.

Davis Love III is very aware of his father’s legacy. “I was blessed to have my golf coach, teacher, best friend, hero and a famous golfer live in the same house as me — so I thank God,” he said in a 2011 interview with Joy! Magazine.

Love has passed on this passion to his son, Davis Love IIII, and nephews.

His wife Robin is involved in his work and daughter Alexia is an award-winning horse rider.

He also regularly takes part in College Golf Fellowship events. “We are seven pro golfers who come alongside college golfers and coaches and encourage them in golf, life and faith,” he said, explaining that they hold retreats and Bible studies.

Love believes his faith is an important part of the way he plays the game. “You have to go through a process of physical, mental and spiritual discipline to get results in golf — and it’s the same thing in your family, your faith and business life,” he told Joy!

Love was introduced to Christianity as a child, when he attended the church where his mother was secretary. He thought that going to church and being good was enough, but after his father’s death he started spending time with Christian players such as Larry Mize, and decided he wanted as good a family life and attitude as Mize had.

Tour chaplains Larry Moody and Dave Kruger helped him discover that there was something more important than just living a good life.

“In the last 10 years as my faith has grown, I now see why Larry was like that, because he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not just because he wanted to be a nice guy,” Love told Sports Spectrum in winter 2011.

“You’re not going to get to the pearly gates and say I was really, really nice, but I didn’t believe... The gift of forgiveness is free, but it must be accepted.”

This faith was tested in 2003, when Love was at the peak of his game, when he discovered the body of his brother-in-law and personal assistant after he committed suicide.

It had recently been discovered that he had been embezzling funds from Love.

Davis Love

“It was one of the worst years of my life because I was dealing with my family and how God could be in the midst of all of this,” he said.

Although his wins have slowed in recent years, Love says they have been the most enjoyable time of his life, as he spends time with his family, friends and the Campus Golf Fellowship.

As he says, “If you consider winning as a measure to your happiness, you are not happy.”

He reflected on the Ryder Cup loss for, saying that even though he was disappointed by the loss, he was proud of the way the team had bonded and given him “the greatest honour of my golfing life.”

That may seem a big call for someone who won the Payne Stewart award for respect for the traditions of golf in 2008 and Bob Jones award for sportsmanship in golf in early 2013, but it is a fitting summary of his attitude toward golf and life.

As he says, “Sure golf is important to me. I’m doing my job and supporting my family and following my career, but I still understand no matter how many wins I pile up, it’s not going to get me to heaven. God doesn’t grade on a curve, you’re either in or out.”