Ryder Cup: Tough Davis Love up for fight after life studded with tragedies

American captain says the loss of his father in a plane crash has made him more determined

It was before another golfing event in Chicago that Davis Love III's agent, Mac Barnhardt, described his man as "one tough dude". That was the 2003 US Open, and Love needed all his resilience, having only a few days earlier discovered the body of his close friend, trusted employee and brother-in-law, Jeff Knight, who had killed himself after being discovered to have embezzled almost $1m from Love to pay off credit card debts.

Nor was this the first family tragedy Love had suffered. In 1988 his father, the celebrated golf teacher Davis Love Jnr, died in a plane crash. So whatever unfolds at Medinah this week, the American captain knows better than most that it will not be a matter of life and death. Indeed, he has told Sky Sports, in an exclusive interview to be aired on Thursday, that he doesn't want his team to work too hard to reclaim the Ryder Cup.

"The one thing I don't want is for them to try as hard for me as I tried for Tom Kite or Lanny Wadkins," he said. Kite's captaincy in 1997, and that of Wadkins in 1995, both ended in failure.

Whatever he says about not trying too hard, however, Love visibly yearns to match the achievement of Paul Azinger in 2008. The Europeans arrived with the trophy four years ago, but did not leave with it, and Love's challenge is to ensure that recent history repeats itself. He is a much less spiky character than the combative Azinger, but behind the gentlemanly demeanour and proper Southern manners, the man from Sea Island, Georgia, is a ferocious competitor. No fewer than 20 wins on the PGA Tour – as many as Greg Norman, more than Kite and Ben Crenshaw – testify to that. Moreover, in the foursomes on the first morning of his Ryder Cup debut in 1993, at The Belfry, he and Kite beat the totemic pairing of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. That was never easy, especially on European soil.

Now, at 48, he is caught in that strange golfing twilight: a bit of a codger by PGA Tour standards, but not quite old enough for the Seniors Tour. Yet Love's competitive fires still burn intensely. And if he can't meet challenges on the golf course the way he used to, he finds them off the course.

"I love to fish, I love to hunt, just about anything outdoors I like doing," he told Sky Sports. "I love to snowboard, that's probably my No 1 passion, and that's pushed us into surfing. Anything that my mom would disagree with, I like doing ... anything that is maybe a little bit dangerous! I think what you find with a lot of athletes is that they enjoy their competition so much, they enjoy that adrenalin rush, [and] it is hard to go home and simulate that. I know I shouldn't be riding a motorcycle, and it's dangerous, and maybe that's why I like to do it. Because it's a challenge."

It's easy enough to understand why his mother might disapprove of him endangering himself. Her husband, Davis Love Jnr, was just 53 when he perished in that 1988 crash.

"It has certainly changed my life on and off the golf course," recalled Love of the accident, in which his best friend, a father of three young children, also died. "It really changed a lot of lives in our little town. But I think it made me stronger. It made me more determined. I still hear [my father's] golf lessons in my head. I would love for him to be giving my son lessons and I would love for him to see the Ryder Cup.

"My father had a passion for the history and traditions of the game. He felt that golf taught you a lot, not only about sports but life – playing by the rules, honouring your competitors and taking your hat off at the end of your round. I am proud I have helped continue this little tradition."

He should be, and yet of course the Ryder Cup has not always offered much of an example to those who insist that the game of golf fosters decency, integrity and respect for the opposition. Nor is Chicago necessarily the place for such virtues to be asserted. But where there's Love, there's hope.

Watch The Ryder Cup live on Sky Sports in HD, 3D, and on mobile devices via Sky Go and Sky Sports for iPad

News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there