There are clubs, balls and bags in everyone’s garage, from 20-handicappers to PGA Tour stars. Just one visit to a golf club might result in bringing back a scorecard, tees, ball markers, hats and shirts. Throw in a little success, and there are trophies, medals and photos, followed by congratulatory notes, cards, letters and telegrams.
Davis Love III has a lot of everything. And part of the process of becoming a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame is going through closets, dens, garages and offices to find the pieces, small and great, that will be on display and tell the life stories.
“I didn’t realize I had this much stuff,” Love said during one late summer day while looking at the pool table in his den, piled with memorabilia. “I guess everyone who goes into the Hall of Fame probably looks at everything they’ve collected during their life and thinks the same way.”
On every other table and desk in that room and an adjoining TV room, there was more … much more. There were books, framed photos, money clips, boxes of letters and cards and old media guides from North Carolina, where Love was a star in the 1980s.
Some items were found in the Sea Island Club and the offices of the Davis Love III Foundation. Some were even in the office of his agent, Mac Barnhardt.
“I had no idea how much of his things I had in my office,” he said. “I knew he’d won a lot of tournaments and been in a lot of places. I knew the life he had in golf. But it’s amazing.”
There were the usual rewards for Love’s success, which has included 21 PGA Tour titles, 34 worldwide victories and being a player or captain on 14 U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. His two Players Championship crystals stood on the pool table, gleaming in the morning sunshine coming through the window. There was the Wanamaker Trophy for winning the 1997 PGA Championship. And there was the Ryder Cup, wrested from Europe in the dramatic 2016 matches.
But not everything represented victories that have made Love an international star. There was the cut-down 3-wood he inherited from his mother Penta that his first driving club as a toddler, a child’s putter, painted orange, and a Masters tee sheet from the final round in 1964 in which his father, Davis Love Jr., played with Chi Chi Rodriguez.
Love said he also found a few things that had faded in memory: such as one of the letters congratulating him for winning the PGA, from entertainer and soon-to-be fellow Hall of Fame member Bob Hope.
“Forgot about that one,” he said. “Amazing to get a letter with that guy’s name on it.”
Process starts early
One of the most important tasks charged to the staff of the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum is to meet with inductees and then sift through rooms full of items that will be sent to St. Augustine.
The trophies, clubs, bags, clothing and almost anything else will be displayed in two places: the year-long exhibit for each new Hall of Fame member, and their permanent locker that will contain more personal items that can include anything from a sweater with the player’s home course logo, an instructional book or a favorite pack of gum.
It’s a process that begins almost from the day that the 16-member Hall of Fame commissioner, chaired by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam, votes the nominees into the Hall.
Hall of Fame president Jack Peter notifies the appropriate commissioner or chief executive, such as the PGA Tour or LPGA commissioner, who gets the task of informing the player they will be enshrined.
“It’s absolutely a delight … a privilege and an honor,” Peter said of making those phone calls.
Peter then calls each inductee as soon as the next day to brief them on what will happen between that point and the induction ceremony. In the case of Love — and fellow 2017 inductees Lorena Ochoa, Meg Mallon and Ian Woosnam, and the family of the late golf writer and broadcaster Henry Longhurst — they have had 11 months to get ready for next week’s induction in New York.
They are informed of the number of tickets available for family (usually around 50), what’s expected of their speech (the Hall of Fame shoots for around eight minutes) and when to decide who will introduce them.
Simultaneously with Peter’s initial talks with inductees, the other staff members, led by vice-president for business affairs Brodie Waters, historian Tony Parker, curator Travis Puterbaugh and communications director Dave Cordero, will swing into action.
And that’s when the treasure hunt begins in earnest.
Home visits ‘fun for everyone’
As soon as can be arranged, the staff goes to the homes of Hall of Fame inductees to examine the items. The running joke is that the inductee usually thanks the Hall of Fame for giving the excuse to clean out garages, closets and attics.
“It’s one of the fun times for everyone,” Waters said.
It’s rare that an inductee tells the Hall of Fame that an item is too treasured to leave their home. But even if there is some initial reluctance, Waters said that once they are informed of how careful his staff is with the shipping of the items and the care and security they receive at the Hall of Fame, they almost always relent.
Here’s how careful the Hall staff is with memorabilia: items are handled with gloves, catalogued and photographed. They’re layered in enough bubble wrap to keep a class of first-graders entertained for hours, then packaged in boxes filled with Styrofoam “peanuts.”
When the boxes are opened at the Hall of Fame, the items are photographed again. The process is repeated when items are shipped back.
Possessions are loaned to the Hall of Fame for one year. Waters said many inductees ask the Hall to keep them beyond that.
“Once they understand the process, a lot of them realize those items are better being on display and shared with fans as opposed to sitting on a mantle,” Waters said. “We’ve got a good track record. We take great care, pride and respect and know they’re trusting us with these prize possessions.”
Object is to tell a story
Going along on the trips is Parker, who has done research on the Hall of Fame nominees to present to the commission. Once someone is inducted, Parker does even more research and as a result, can put a story behind the items.
It’s not just trophies for winning majors.
“Every golf fan knows those stories,” Parker said.
But one item Love donated has a fascinating back story. Love was at North Carolina the same time as NBA star Michael Jordan. Love took Jordan out for his first round of golf and when he let him hit his persimmon driver, Jordan smashed the ball so hard he cracked the face of the club.
Love had it repaired but held onto it. That club will be in the Hall of Fame.
“We want to tell the stories that humanize the inductees,” Parker said. “Not everything has to be a huge trophy from a significant victory.”
Waters also said the Hall of Fame gives the inductee the chance to contribute to those story lines. For example, it’s important to Love that visitors who see his exhibit understand the relationship he had with his father, the veteran club pro and teacher who died in a 1988 plane crash near the Jacksonville International Airport.
“I want the display to tell my Dad’s story,” Love said.
The individual exhibits, which appear in the large Hall of Fame room in the center of the building, were timed to open on the same night as the induction ceremony when it was held in St. Augustine. A soft opening of the exhibits for the class of 2017 has already been held and is open for viewing.
“The whole process is one Hall of Famers members cherish,” Waters said. “And it means more to them than just their 10 biggest wins. It’s a way of thinking back and reflecting on their careers. It’s our job to tell those stories.”