MEDINAH: Davis Love III had to share his big day with Chicago’s beloved Bears.
If he leads the Americans to the Ryder Cup in the fall of 2012, he’ll have the whole town to himself.
An emotional and enthusiastic Love was introduced Thursday as the next U.S. captain of the Ryder Cup, then spent the next few hours being feted across Chicago. He was made an honorary member at Medinah Country Club, where the 2012 matches will be played, got a miniature replica of the Stanley Cup, and hobnobbed with Chicago’s sports royalty: Scottie Pippen, Dan Hampton and Ernie Banks.
“Good luck to you,” Pippen, who teamed with Michael Jordan to win six NBA titles with the Bulls, told Love at an afternoon reception. “I’m looking forward to popping some champagne with you.”
All five of Chicago’s pro teams presented Love with personalized jerseys, and the White Sox threw in a ball from the 2005 World Series. Love also was to be a guest of the Bulls at their game against the Dallas Mavericks later Thursday night.
“The whole world is going to be watching what we do here in Chicago,” Love said. “When we get here, when the European team gets here, we’re going to be at least a point ahead because we’re going to have the Chicago fans, the Chicago energy.”
The daylong celebration of Love’s appointment wraps up a week that put the Ryder Cup in the news some 18 months before the next shot is struck.
Europe, which won the gold trophy in Wales last October, appointed two-time Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal as its captain Tuesday.
Love’s appointment was hardly a secret, and it was clear he’s already working on a plan to reverse the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup woes.
Europe has won six of the last eight match-ups.
Love has started talking with PGA and Medinah officials about course setup. He’s thought about the qualities he wants in his vice captains and who might be suited for those jobs. At dinner Wednesday night, he and wife Robin spent part of the time looking at the ballrooms and imagining how they could be configured for team meeting rooms.
As for those disastrous rain suits that leaked, causing a distraction before the Americans even teed off in Wales, Love pledged that a big part of his job will be making sure his players feel as comfortable and prepared as possible.
“I’m a players’ captain,” he said earlier in the day. “I’ll try to get them what they need to be successful. I’m not going to tell the best players in the world how to play golf. I’m not going to read their putts. I’m going to stay out of their way and let them show their talents. I think a good leader knows he’s got a great team and just gets them prepared and let’s them go play.”
Love, a 20-time winner on the PGA Tour, played on six Ryder Cup teams.
His first three matches, with Tom Kite as his partner, were against Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros, the “Spanish Armada” that formed one of the most daunting teams in Ryder Cup history. Love won that first match, but never beat Olazabal again. They never played each other in singles.
Olazabal won his second green jacket in 1999, and while his duel that day was with Greg Norman, the Spaniard held off a late charge by Love, who was the runner-up.
Love recalled that Olazabal brought a special Spanish wine to serve at the Masters’ Champions Dinner that next year, and he gave Love the leftover bottles.
“I’ll always remember his generosity,” said Love, who said he has not spoken to Olazabal this week. “He’s always been a good friend. It’ll be a tough competition. On Thursday we’ll be friends, and Sunday night we’ll still be friends.”
Love said he would consider playing if he earned his way on the team, although a U.S. captain has never qualified for the team in recent decades. Love last qualified for the team in 2004, when Europe routed the Americans at Oakland Hills.
“We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it,” Love said. “If we had good assistants and I’m playing great, that would be a great story for our team and for golf—as long as I get three or four points out of the deal.”
This was the second time Love has been showcased by the PGA of America, and both times he fought tears. The other occasion was in 1997 at Winged Foot, when he won the PGA Championship and broke down thinking about his father, Davis Love Jr., a longtime PGA professional who died in a plane crash early in Love’s career.
“Now to be named Ryder Cup captain is a thrill I never thought I would have,” said Love, his voice choking and his eyes filling with tears. “I’d love to share that with my father. I know somehow I am. … There’s not a tour player out there that plays one tour event or six Ryder Cups that doesn’t have a PGA professional that led them to that position.”