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Parting Shot
Michael Bamberger
November 17, 1997
Amid sad memories, a reflective Davis Love III triumphed at the final Kapalua International
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November 17, 1997

Parting Shot

Amid sad memories, a reflective Davis Love III triumphed at the final Kapalua International

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For Love, the ensuing six-hour flight to San Francisco was torture. He boarded knowing nothing about the whereabouts of his father's plane, which carried a pilot and two other Sea Island teaching pros, John Popa and Jimmy Hodges. After his father, Hodges was Davis III's best friend—his golf, fishing and hunting partner. There were no telephones on Davis III's flight, but the pilots were alerted to pass along any information they might receive. All through the trip Robin, who was extremely close to her father-in-law, was inconsolable. Every time a flight attendant passed by, Robin would ask, "Any news at all?"

As they came off the plane in San Francisco, the Loves were greeted by Griggs. They walked to baggage claim, and Davis went to a telephone and called home. He reached his brother. "They found the plane," Mark said. "There were no survivors."

Davis turned to Griggs and Robin and told them the news. He wept. Robin sobbed. Griggs hugged them both and led them in a prayer. He put them on his plane, and the Loves flew home. It was a long, quiet flight.

In the years since then Griggs has become a surrogate father to Love. This week Griggs, Love and Hulbert are salmon fishing near the California- Oregon border. Griggs, who lives in Pebble Beach, is the host of a charity tournament, held on the Monday before the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, that raises money for a scholarship fund honoring Davis Love Jr. Davis III and his friend and fellow pro Joey Sindelar stay with Griggs each year during the AT&T. Love and Griggs have a relationship in which they can talk about anything, and they do. "I never had the pleasure of meeting Davis's father," says Griggs, "but I feel I know him very well."

The similarities of their fathers' deaths have given Rolfing and Love a bond they would not otherwise have. On Sunday morning, as Love and Toms went off in the tournament's final group, Rolfing couldn't help but root for Love. But friendship was not his only reason. In January 1999, the Mercedes Championships, the annual season-opening event for the winners of the previous year's tournaments, will move from the La Costa Resort, near San Diego, to Kapalua, ending the International's run. Thus, as Rolfing saw it, a victory by Love would be a fitting and moving final act.

Love has been saying for years that winning Kapalua has meant as much to him as most of his 12 Tour wins. He talks about maybe someday buying a house in Kapalua. The sorrow shared with Rolfing at Kapalua one day nine years ago only increases his feeling for the place.

The tournament has been a gem. Admission is free, and the size of the crowds—about 2,000 people, tops—is ideal. The 7,293-yard par-73 Plantation Course (one of two the tournament was played on), designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is awesome. It features broad fairways (one 97 yards in width), immense greens, huge elevation changes and amazing views of the Pacific.

This has been a peculiar season for Love, his best and also his oddest. For months on end he struck the ball beautifully but couldn't get into the hunt. He missed several weeks after a kidney-stone operation in February and lost another week when he was disqualified from the Players Championship in March for inadvertently signing an incorrect scorecard. He won his first major, the PGA Championship at Winged Foot in August, then failed to earn even a half point the next month at the Ryder Cup. Love returned to the Tour the following week and won the Buick Challenge. Two weeks ago he had a two-shot lead with six holes to go in the Tour Championship but ended up in third. Then he won at Kapalua.

Love beat Toms by three shots with rounds of 67, 66, 67 and 68, 22 under par. The clincher came when Love stiffed his second shot at the par-5 72nd hole. He hit a 266-yard three-iron from a downhill lie that finished seven feet from the cup. It was the final shot onto the final green in the final playing of the Kapalua International. The shot won Love a Lincoln Navigator for coming the closest to the hole in two strokes, and it nailed down the $216,000 winner's prize.

Poor Toms never really had a chance, and neither did the rest of the field. Shortly before teeing off on Sunday, Love looked up and saw a rainbow arcing over the course. A rainbow had also emerged just as Love was winning the PGA. A few hours later, in triumph, Love was subdued, contented, fulfilled. He thought about his father, the end of the tournament and the passage of time. At the awards ceremony he stood beside Rolfing on the 18th green. On Monday he flew to San Francisco to meet up with Griggs for their fishing trip.

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