In his final hours, with death closing in, Harvey Penick joined
much of the golf world on Sunday in pulling for Davis Love III to
qualify for the Masters. That morning at his home in Austin,
Texas, the sage golf instructor had heard from Tom Kite that Love
was leading the Freeport-McMoRan Classic in New Orleans. That
pleased the 90-year-old Penick immensely. With what strength he
had left, he lifted his feeble hands and clapped twice. Seven
hours later, he died.
All of this was relayed to Love at English Turn Golf & Country
Club just after he had survived a bogey-bogey finish and won a
playoff against Mike Heinen. While Love was elated to have earned
a Masters exemption, he was saddened to learn that a cornerstone
of his life had passed away. His father, Davis Love Jr., had
idolized Penick, who was influential in the development of Love
Jr. as one of America's foremost golf teachers.
``I just kind of grew up with everything in The Little Red Book,''
Love said Sunday night while flying home to Sea Island, Ga. ``He
was just a part of my dad. I kind of feel like the last bit of my
dad is gone now.''
When Davis Love Jr. died in a plane crash in 1988, it was Kite who
took over as Love III's unofficial mentor, helping shepherd his
career. After Love missed the cut in the Las Vegas Invitational
last October and thus failed to finish in thetop 30 on the money
list, which would have given him exemptions to the Masters and the
U.S. Open, Kite could fully relate to the pressure Love was under.
In 1992, Kite had been in exactly the same circumstances, needing
a victory in New Orleans to qualify for the Masters. Kite finished
tied for 12th and did not make the trip to Augusta. ``There's
nobody more proud of Davis than I am,'' Kite said Sunday.
Love's victory, his first on the PGA Tour in 17 months, could
have broader implications than just a Masters berth. Though Love
has won The Players Championship and eight other PGA Tour events
in his 10-year career, his performance in major championships
has been lackluster for a player of such immense talent. In 21
Grand Slam appearances, Love has missed four cuts and finished
no better than 11th, in the 1991 U.S. Open. Last year he shot
76- 78 at Augusta and missed the cut.
``This is what Davis Love needed,'' says Butch Harmon, the
teaching pro from Houston, who works with Greg Norman. ``Davis
Love needed to prove to Davis Love that he could do it with the
Harmon had delivered a pivotal and honest talk to Love last
October, just after the Las Vegas Invitational. ``He was
distraught,'' Harmon recalls. ``I told him to get back to work,
that he was too good a player to be where he was. I told him he
had gotten lazy. I really did lay a lot of stuff on the line.''
Love took Harmon's words to heart. In February he led the AT&T
Pro-Am after the opening round, but he finished tied for third. In
March he led the Doral-Ryder Open after two rounds, but he didn't
break 70 on the weekend and tied for fourth. He was two shots
behind Loren Roberts at the halfway point of the Nestle
Invitational last month, but he closed with a pair of 73s to
finish 16th. Two weeks ago at The Players Championship, he was
tied for the lead after 70 holes, but he hit a nine-iron over the
17th green, made double bogey and tied for sixth.
Love, whoshowed resiliencythrough all of those
disappointments, stole a page from Penick's Little Red Book,
taking ``dead aim'' at the Masters. ``I just never let it cross
my mind that I wasn't going to win and get to Augusta,'' Love
said Sunday evening. ``Today I kept telling myself, `You're
going to win the tournament. You're going to go to the Masters.'
I just don't like to be left out.''