Davis Love III's goal is to go low in return to Warwick Hills for Ally Challenge

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Grand Blanc — It’s been a while since Davis Love III has been to Warwick Hills.

Roughly 21 years, in fact, but the major champion and two-time Ryder Cup captain has taken one important memory about the old course north of Detroit with him over the years — you have to go low.

“Making a lot of birdies and not winning is what I remember the most,” Love said Thursday as he prepared to play in the Ally Challenge beginning Friday. “I played well here my first year here in ’86 and then I made a lot of birdies around this place, but never did pull off a win.

“So hopefully now and in the future I can continue that and maybe catch up with (Jim) Furyk and the guys that played well here and won.”

Davis Love III last played at Warwick Hills in the 2000 Buick Open, a former PGA Tour event.

Piling up the birdies was always critical when the Buick Open was played. The popular tournament ended in 2009 after just more than 50 years as a regular PGA Tour event, most of those played at Warwick Hills.

And going low has been critical to winning the championship, something Love never did during his 10 appearances, none better than his debut in 1986 when he tied for fifth place, opening with a first-round 65 before finishing at 15-under.

It will be a similar approach when the Champions Tour event tees off on Friday morning, as Love hopes to keep up with Furyk, the defending champion, while trying to secure his first victory in the 50-and-over club.

“The three-day Champions Tour events are sprints, you've got to make a bunch of birdies,” said Love, who last played at Warwick Hills in the 2000 Buick Open and is making his Ally Challenge debut. “The trees are bigger, we don't hit it as far, but it's still the same golf course and it's one that we're comfortable with. You obviously have to hit a lot of fairways is the main thing.

“So I'm looking forward to at least playing a place that I'm comfortable at, not having any recent experience, but it's always nice to come back to a place you're comfortable.”

As much as Love remembers how the course plays, he also remembers the fans, specifically those at No. 17.

The par-3 was one of the first on Tour that embraced the rowdy atmosphere as sometimes over-served fans cheered the great shots and jeered the not-so-great.

“Hopefully I can get them riled up and hit it close,” Love said. “It's always fun; birdies are fun on those holes and bogeys are bad because you get picked on.”

While it’s a return after a long absence for Love, it’s a home game for the likes of Tom Gillis (Lake Orion), Scott Hebert (Traverse City) and George Bowman (Clarkston).

Bowman, a member at Oakhurst, is playing on a sponsor’s exemption. He’s played three PGA Tour events in his life — the PGA Championship in 1994 and ’96, and the Buick Open in 1990. This time, he’s trying to relish every moment he’s on the course.

“I just want to play golf really and to do it at this stage is unbelievable,” Bowman said. “The fact that they believed in me to give me this chance, everything from here on out's a bonus. It means the world. I played the Buick Open, I played Nike Tour, I played in two PGAs … I'm a lucky guy, really lucky.”

While Bowman’s chances of winning might be slim, Love is hoping this is the chance for him to break through. After a tie for 11th last week at the Boeing Classic near Seattle, he’s hoping the course he hasn’t seen in a while is where it all comes together.

“I'd like to get a win on the Champions Tour anywhere, anytime,” Love said. “This would be a good one. Great memories of making birdies here. I'm trying to chase these guys down and be on the leaderboard some, so it would be nice to do it this week.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau