Thursday, August 09, 2007

Catching up with Mark Love, Davis' brother

Thursday afternoon while his brother, Davis, was playing his first round in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in sweaty Tulsa, OK., Mark Love – who has caddied for his brother off and on through the years – was in a golf cart taking another look at the redesign work they’ve done at the soon-to-open The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis.

There was a time when Mark, who followed Davis to the University of North Carolina, would have been marching through the Oklahoma heat with his brother’s golf bag slung across his shoulder, relishing the possibility of being in contention on the weekend.

But Mark Love was where he wanted to be Thursday, riding in the North Carolina heat, looking at what he, his brother and their design company are creating at what used to be Kannapolis Country Club.

"I don’t miss caddying," said Love, who became a familiar sight beside his brother. "When I do an occasional week with Davis now, I enjoy seeing my friends and the tournament rounds, but that job is so much about sitting and waiting."

These days, Mark is president of Love Golf Design, a company with an increasingly impressive reputation. The Love Course at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach has earned national praise, as have several others among the 20 or so projects the Love group has handled.

When Irish Creek opens to members this fall, word will spread fast about the dynamic redesign Mark, Davis and their group – including Bob Spence and John McKenzie – have produced.

They have taken the best parts of the existing layout, created new routing and new holes in places and fully utilized the lake, transforming the course into a more dramatic and appealing golf course. It’s a place people will want to go play – often.

"We think traditional-style golf is more fun," Love said, riding the course Thursday afternoon. "When we’ve been at majors, Davis has always said, ‘Why can’t we build courses like this anymore?’ "

That doesn’t mean difficult enough to torment touring pros. It means incorporating classic design styles such as grass-faced bunkers, generous fairways and subtly contoured greens into natural settings. It means utilizing the land rather than creating something artificial.

"The creative part of it is my forte," Love said, looking across a lakeside where the fifth, seventh and eighth greens sit.

At the par-3 eighth, Love explains how two bunkers had been built on the right side of the green but, with the green guarded on the left by the lake, the decision was made to go with just one bunker, leaving the front right side clear for sliced tee shots.

"We’ve given a nice big target now for the average guy, but with the green we’ve designed the good players will have a lot of different type shots they can hit," Love said.

A few minutes later, standing on the 18th tee, Love looked around at the course coming to life.

He liked what he saw.

And he liked where he was.

Ron Green Jr.