United States Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III made the long drive to Atlanta from his South Georgia home Saturday for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Classic between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels…And he brought the Ryder Cup Trophy to the game with him, for good measure.
In an unique arrangement, Team Europe lent the Ryder Cup Trophy to Love and the Americans for the first-ever Ryder Cup Trophy Tour that will track more than 5,000 miles across the United States—in order to promote the upcoming Ryder Cup, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, as part of the “We Are 13” initiative to promote fan engagement.
“We’re really lucky to have it right now,” Love explained to a UNC fan.
Love was a three-time All-American on the North Carolina golf team, where he and Carolina basketball star Buzz Peterson introduced golf to Peterson’s roommate, Michael Jordan.
The Trophy, which first appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” the Today Show and Facebook Live on Monday, took a weekend turn to the passionate land of college football, as it travels from UGA-UNC at the Georgia Dome to Notre Dame-Texas in Austin today to Ole Miss-Florida State in Orlando on Labor Day. Stops later this month include Notre Dame-Michigan State and UNLV-UCLA, as well as visits to Major League Baseball games between the Cubs-Brewers and Twins-Tigers.
Fans, media and college football legends on both sides of the Georgia Dome were ecstatic, as the Ryder Cup and/or Love made the rounds—meeting for photo ops with the likes of the Heisman Trophy; College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy; mascots UGA X, Hairy Dawg and UNC’s Ramses; College Football Hall of Fame Football Coach Vince Dooley; UNC Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams; and countless fans among the record Kickoff Game sellout crowd of 75,404, who were frankly in awe of the sight of Samuel Ryder’s 17-inch tall gold masterpiece.
Selfies were rampant. As were countless questions that echoed, “Is that really the Ryder Cup? Can I get my picture with it?”
At the end of the first quarter, a huge roar from Heels and Dawgs fans alike was heard, as Love presented the Trophy in the Carolina end zone to the packed house. He exchanged signed Team USA golf bags for jerseys from both schools, with UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity, and legendary UGA and Chicago Bears Kicker Kevin Butler, a member of the College Football HOF.
Love’s son, Davis “Dru” Love IV, who is a senior on the University of Alabama golf team, looked on from the sideline, while other friends and family were in the crowd.
Approximately 20 miles away and some four decades ago, Love’s father, Davis Love Jr., was the beloved PGA Head Professional at Atlanta Country Club in Marietta, Ga., where a young Van Earl Wright caddied for the Love family.
A friendship was struck.
Last night, Wright, who eventually became a popular sports anchor for CNN, and Love reunited on the field for an interview for the “Bulldogs Game Week” show on the local WSB-TV affiliate in Atlanta.
“Old childhood friend & Ryder Cup Captain, Davis Love III with the most valuable item in the Georgia Dome,” Wright captioned a photo on Facebook.
Love would also be interviewed for the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network by legendary announcer Loran Smith, another friend of both Davis Love III and his father. Smith has covered 55 Masters, and he attended the 1960 Masters as a fan, where Arnie’s Army was born. Smith has been a part of Georgia football broadcasts for 44 years, most famously as the former sideline reporter for the late, iconic play-by-play announcer Larry Munson.
“Davis will be a classy Ryder Cup Captain,” said Smith, who remarked several times how much he admires the entire Love family.
Meanwhile, Cunningham hosted Love in the Athletic Director’s box, where Carolina fans took photos with him and the Ryder Cup throughout the night.
“It was an honor to be with the Ryder Cup and have so many fans see the Cup,” said Love. “It was great to be with Bubba Cunningham and see so many of my Tar Heel family, and also see so many of my supporters from UGA. Loran Smith has been a friend of the family since my high school days, and of course, it is always great to get to talk to Coach Dooley.
“Van Earl was an innovator in covering sports on TV, and I always knew I had played well if he talked about me on his show. And to get to spend time with Roy Williams made the night even more special. He has been supportive in all I have done since my Chapel Hill days, and he is always willing to help Team USA.”
Georgia came back to defeat Love’s alma mater 33-24, capped by a scintillating 55-yard touchdown run for glory by Heisman hopeful Nick Chubb, as the Ryder Cup looked on from high above in the press box.
Tonight, the Ryder Cup Trophy Tour visits the Longhorns and Irish, deep in the heart of Texas, as we count down the days to the start of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.