Photo: AP/Matt Slocum
Love & Competition
Davis Love III has become a household name, known for his excellence and sportsmanship on the golf course. He was born into the sport, as his father, Davis M Love, Jr., was a former pro and nationally recognized golf instructor. He played on scholarship at the University of North Carolina and earned his PGA Tour card in the autumn of 1985 on his first attempt. Three years later, in June 1988, Love and his wife, Robin, became new parents with the birth of their daughter, Alexia (Lexie). Little did they know, Lexie would become enthralled with riding horses at a very young age and would begin a lifetime love affair with equestrian sport.

“I’ve been riding horses ever since I can remember,” Lexie said. “I got my true start in competing when I was seven years old when a close family friend heard I was taking lessons and quickly told my Dad I should try out one of his Paso Finos. We loaded up and drove down to Ocala where my immediate obsession with the breed began; I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Davis found it difficult to sit on the sidelines. “When Lexie started riding I couldn’t just watch, I wanted to join in, so I bought a Fino Stallion and showed for a little while, but eventually got too busy to keep showing,” he said. “I don’t ride very often now that the horses stay mostly at our trainer’s farm in Ocala; when we had the horses at our barn at home it was easier to get out and ride.”

As Lexie continued riding, she recognized her talent, and her passion for the sport grew. At age nine she began competing with Paso Finos. “There are a million reasons why I chose to compete Paso Finos. The obvious reason would be their smooth gait and amazingly beautiful movements. There is so much more to the breed though; these horses may come in a smaller package than a lot of the popular breeds out there, but their attitude packs enough punch to win over anyone who rides one. The people in our association make the breed even more appealing, and that mixed with a diverse cultural experience at every show makes our events a must-see!”

Lexie entered the show ring in 1997 and has since accumulated 13,472 points, proving herself as an accomplished rider. To date, she has earned 12 Grand National Championships, 4 Reserve Grand National Championships, 19 National Championships, and 22 Reserve National Championships. Six of the National Championship titles were won consecutively from 2004 to 2009 with Maraquita la Rosa Tres, her pride and joy. As a youth, Lexie earned the privilege of competing in Confederation of Paso Horses Youth Mundial Equitation Show, a multi-national World Cup Championship, representing Team USA. In 1999, she was honored with a World Cup Championship and World Cup Grand Championship on her Pleasure gelding, Retador de Retorno, and again in 2007, this time with her beloved Performance Mare, Marquita la Rosa Tres.

As Lexie became more competitive and more successful, her father began seeing many similarities in equestrian and golf. One thing he noticed is, “competing at a high level in any sport becomes as much mental as physical. In golf the clubs don’t know what you are feeling, but the horse knows when you are nervous and tight. You can’t win at either sport unless you are sharp physically and mentally. Both require you to practice hard, and once you’re on the course or in the ring, you’ve got to stick to a game plan regardless of pressure.”

Mental toughness is never mastered but can be improved upon with practice over time. With more than 36 years of playing golf under his belt, Davis can offer Lexie advice in that specific area. “Definitely not on the horse side; she is a great natural rider, and she listens and applies her trainer’s lessons well,” Davis admits. “I just try to keep her calm and offer mental tips if she gets nervous.”

Lexie adds, “He gets me geared up mentally. He helps me stay out of my own head and reminds me that if I am not having fun, I should not be doing it!”

Lexie says her dad’s presence at her shows is more comforting than nerve-wracking. “I think it’s natural for any child to want to succeed in front of their parents. I love having him around, though. He doesn’t get to come as much as he would like to, so when he does, it is so fun to show him how our horses are improving.”

When asked which makes him more nervous, competing in a Major Tournament or watching Lexie compete, he says, “Watching. I have some feeling of control playing. Watching is nerve-racking!” Interestingly, Lexie feels the same way about watching her dad. “Definitely watching my Dad play (makes me more nervous); I am at ease when I am on a horse.” Then she jokes, “I think I am most nervous though when I watch him on a horse!”

Davis and Lexie don’t only bond through their sports; Lexie also works for the Davis Love Foundation. Established in 2005, the Davis Love Foundation contributes to the well-being and progress of society by supporting both national and community-based programs that focus on children and their families. Headquartered in St. Simons Island, Georgia, the Foundation’s mission is to build a better future for vulnerable children and their families who are at risk of poor educational, economic, social, and health outcomes. In 2010, the Davis Love Foundation partnered with the PGA TOUR to become the Host Organization of The McGladrey Classic, an Official PGA TOUR Event, for which Lexie coordinates the details of production.

“Working for The Davis Love Foundation and putting on an event as big as the McGladrey has shown me how important it is to use sports as a platform to help others,” Lexie says. “Through my Dad starting this tournament up, we have been able to support so many local charities, and in the end that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

“I am so proud that Lexie is working in the family business and helping to support our community by raising funds for children and family charities in need,” Davis says.

His charity work is just one aspect of his life that contributed to Davis’s being named the recipient of the 2013 Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. Watching her dad accept the award further demonstrated to Lexie how important it is to support those less fortunate. “It has been no secret to me growing up that my Dad is one of the greats; the Dad we saw in the house was the same guy walking down the fairways each week,” she says. “For me it was a proud moment to see him recognized for what was most important, his character.”

Davis attributes his character to his father, the late Davis Love, Jr., to whom his book, Every Shot I Take, is dedicated. Every Shot I Take pays tribute to the value of the lessons he learned from his father in golf and how those translated into his life. Davis has passed those life lessons and character on to Lexie. “I think even though she does not play as much golf as me or her brother, she understands that golf is a ‘gentleman’s’ game,” he says. “She is upholding the morals and ideals my dad felt were important in golf and life.”

Lexie is fully aware of where those lessons come from and applies them to her own life and sport. “The most important lesson I believe that you can take away from my Grandfather is his saying, ‘Follow your dreams and enjoy the trip.’ Sometimes we can get caught up in the end result, and then we forget what we are here for, and for me it’s my love of horses, and the fellowship that comes along with them.”