ERIN, Wis. – This really is as good as it gets. Your son is playing in the first professional event of his life and that event, as your teaching-pro father called it when he played in it seven times, is the national championship, an event you’ve played in 23 times yourself. And you’re caddying for the boy.
And you’re nervous and excited and he’s nervous and excited and you tour every last hill of Erin Hills together, though not attached at the hip. You give him space because you know what it’s like, when your caddie is right on top of you, or when your golf-expert father doesn’t give you the space you think you need.
And because the boy is long and wild he finds some very funky spots and because he is talented he is able to get around Erin Hills in 71 shots anyhow and now he—or you and he—has a chance to make the cut. You played in your first U.S. Open, in 1988, and didn’t make the cut. It was the only Open your father ever got to see you play in.
You know how important it is to seize the day. That’s always been your thing: seize the day, seize the day, seize the day. And you and the boy did just that.
Davis Love Jr. begat Davis Love III (aka Trip) and Davis Love III begat Davis Love IV (Dru) and what Dru and Trip begat on Thursday we do not know and will not know for a long time. Maybe Dru will someday become a distinguished golf teacher, like his grandfather, who died five years before Dru was born. Maybe he will become a Hall of Fame golfer, like his father. Maybe this, maybe that. He’s not plotting anything. He’s one online course away from graduating from the University of Alabama. If he wants to graduate to the PGA Tour, he has to get better at golf, that’s all. His name will open some doors but he has to mark down the scores himself.
“[My grandfather] is responsible for my dad being here, and my dad’s responsible for me being here,” Dru said the other day. “So he kind of got it all started and he’s paved the road for us to get here.” Beautifully said.
The Tour used to be filled with Dru Loves, big heavy guys with broad faces, yes-sir personalities, long swings and kill-it-and-find-it mindsets. Davis Love’s old friend Andy Bean comes to mind in that regard. Davis was not that way, even for all the length he had in the late 1980s and all through the 1990s, most of it played with a wooden driver.
Dru played all the shots Thursday, but his father gave him some old-pro advice. Dru drove it long and in the nasty left rough on the par-4 17th. The young golfer’s tendency is to want to get to the house. The learned hands know that finishing a good round is one of the hardest things to do in golf. The approach on 17 was half-blind and unfamiliar and Davis, his boy sort of in tow, marched halfway to the green to make sure they had the right line, and to slow things down. The two-putt par he made there was something else. It was slow and methodical. Professional golf is slow and methodical. Slow and methodical, but also aggressive and showy. Davis has figured that out over the past 30-plus years.
The father knows that the son has to figure it out for himself. Dru attempted to hit a slashing 4-iron from an iffy lie for his second shot on the par-5 7th when the father was urging him to chip it down the fairway with a 6-iron. The kid shanked it and the father wisely said nothing. What would be the point? Dru made a bogey there and a bounce-back birdie on the next.
Davis wanted Dru to hit a 3-wood on the downwind monster-long par-5 18th but Dru hit a driver instead. He smashed it right and into the long, thick fescue. As the father and son made their way toward it they saw the sickening sight of two-dozen people looking for the ball. The pro move is to never rush in those situations, as the five-minute clock begins when the player or his caddie arrive in the vicinity. A woman named Julia Chadwick, attending her first golf tournament, found Dru’s ball and a wave of relief washed over the player and his caddie.
“He was so appreciative,” Julia’s sister, Mary Truman, told her, speaking of Dru. “He shook your hand!” Dru’s sister, Lexie, was on the other side of the fairway. Davis and Robin Love’s two children are nothing if not well-mannered.
Dru is a funny kid. He’s been at numerous major championships and Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups over the years, sometimes with a towel-boy job to do, and if he has a care in the world you would never know. His father looked (almost literally) like he was the 23-year-old out there on Thursday, with his black shorts with a cargo pocket and his mesh hat and sunglasses. (It’s shocking, how skinny his legs are.) He knows how to caddie because he always relied on caddies himself, whether it was Herman Mitchell years ago or Joe LaCava or his brother, Mark, who caddied for him when he won the 1997 PGA Championship. “I was nervous out there,” Davis said when the round was over. “You want to get things right.”
The kid doesn’t do nervous. Looking over his improbable birdie putt on 18 (right rough, left rough, beautiful approach shot from 190 yards), he told his father, “I’m gonna make this and get me a big sandwich.”
He didn’t make it but did not forgo his lunch.