In U.S. Open debut Dru Love makes father/caddie Davis Love III proud

World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III carries the bag of his son, Dru, on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

ERIN, Wis. -- Standing on the first tee in the early-morning calm as the U.S. Open was getting started, it was impossible to ignore the treachery in front of him. A monster par-5 with fescue everywhere -- a daunting, long golf course for his first professional round.

Davis Love's heart, understandably, was pounding just before 7 a.m. at Erin Hills.

That's Davis Love III, caddie.

Davis Love IV, son, was about to tee off in his first U.S. Open, playing his first event as a professional. And he showed no such discomfort, pounding his opening tee shot down the fairway.

"It was very impressive," said the elder Love, who watched his son shoot a very respectable 1-under-par 71 in the opening round of the U.S. Open that included four birdies and three bogeys. "He kept saying how nervous he was, but he kept hitting great shots -- really did well. He hit two or three bad shots, couple of bad swings.

"He was amazed how fast the greens were and I kept telling him, 'It's the U.S. Open!' That sort of became the joke of the day. But he had fun."

So did dad, who knows a thing or two about pressure golf. The two-time U.S. Ryder Cup captain has played in 23 U.S. Opens, but he failed to get through sectional qualifying this year. (His best finish was a tie for second in 1996, and he has five top-10s.)

But Dru -- a nickname that is short for quadruple -- shot scores of 67-71 at a sectional qualifier in Georgia last week and then won a playoff for the first alternate spot. He got in the field Monday when five spots that weren't filled through the Official World Golf Ranking became available.

"I just had a great time," Dru Love, 23, said. "I learned a lot about myself, a lot about my game. I'm a tad disappointed with 71, but for my first round in a major, I'll take it and try to go to the range and improve on what didn't go right today and see if we can't get there tomorrow."

It certainly doesn't hurt having a major champion on the bag. Love III has been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, having won 21 times on the PGA Tour. He won the 1997 PGA Championship.

Dru turned pro after an injury-marred career at Alabama that saw him play just a handful of competitive rounds as senior in 2017 after shoulder surgery.

With no status on a professional tour -- he is likely to get PGA Tour sponsor exemptions based on name recognition alone -- he plans to try to qualify on Mondays for Web.com Tour events and some PGA Tour events.

"I'm trying to buy some time until Q-School," he said of the qualifying event that could get him on the Web.com Tour next season, "try to get some more experience. I've been hurt a lot in college. Just try to get some reps. Whatever I can play in, I'm going to play in."

Like his father -- who starred at North Carolina before turning pro -- Dru is a long-ball hitter who sometimes doesn't corral his own length. He had a few issues with that Thursday and was fortunate to come out OK.

"He was so pumped up on the first hole that he airmailed the green," Davis said. "He plays a lot like Dustin [Johnson], whatever. He just hits it and goes."

By playing this week, Dru helped make a little bit of history. The Loves became the second family to have three generations compete in a U.S. Open. Dru's grandfather, Davis Love Jr., who died in a 1988 plane crash, played in six U.S. Opens. (Tyson Alexander, who is competing in this U.S. Open and debuted in the tournament in 2009, is part of the other three-generation family. His dad, Buddy, the former golf coach at Florida, played in two U.S. Opens and was the 1986 U.S. Amateur champion. Buddy's father, Skip, also played in the U.S. Open.)

When Dru was 19, he played a round at Frederica Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Georgia, with his dad -- and beat him for the first time, making an eagle on the last hole.

"I made about a 40-footer and he made a 30-footer for eagle right on top of me," Dru said. "He turned around and looked at me and said, 'What was yours [for]?' I said '64, what was yours?' '65.' He turned around and walked to the car and left me on the 18th green.

"He wasn't mad; he was joking with me. I'm sure he is one of the most competitive people I've ever met, and there is no chance he's ever going to let me win. And I know when we got done, he was proud of me for finally beating him after 20 years."

Davis Love III was proud on Thursday, too.