Tom Lovelady was back home in Mountain Brook during the week of the Masters, golf’s major event that welcomes the best of the game to Augusta, Georgia. Most of the time, though, Lovelady lives in Jupiter, Florida, sharing a house with fellow PGA Tour golfers Bud Cauley and Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year. Justin was among the top performers after the first round of the Masters and wound up tied for 17th. Lovelady was not there but he’s not exactly lounging, either.
“He’s playing golf right now,” his mother Kitty says of her son, who arrived Tuesday night of Masters week and drove to Tuscaloosa to workout with the Alabama golf team. “Today he’s playing golf with Smylie Kaufman. Tomorrow, he’s got a group playing. Saturday, he’s got a group playing.
“Every day, it’s work for him,” she continues. “But it’s work that he loves, and what a blessing that is.” Tom is in his first season on the PGA Tour as a rookie who earned his initial tour card after just one year on the Web.com Tour. But he is not content to just be there. His aim is to make himself at home on the tour next season, and beyond.
Golf has always been part of the Lovelady household. Tom was about 3 when his parents—mainly his father, Tim—took him onto the course. “We belonged to Vestavia Country Club,” Kitty recounts. “We lived around the corner from the club. We would go after work or on weekends, and they would go up to the driving range or to the par 3.”
Tom was in the fourth or fifth grade before he started playing in tournaments. By the time he was in junior high, the son could beat his father, who had been a junior golfer in his youth. Stewart Jolly remembers being close friends with Tom but also being very, very competitive with him. Like Tom, he played at Vestavia Country Club.
“Mainly every afternoon, it was just me and Tom,” Stewart says. “At a really early age, like about seventh grade or so, I picked up golf and Tom was so much better than I was. I practiced so hard to try and get better so I could at least give him a match. We definitely wanted to beat each other so bad that that pushed us to get better.”
Tom’s prowess increased when he reached the high school level, by which point his family had moved to Mountain Brook. Benny Eaves, the Spartans’ athletic director and golf coach, remembers Tom being No. 1 on the high school golf team from the time he stepped on the course as a ninth-grader.
The coach says Tom was 1A and Jolly was 1B. Jolly wound up going to LSU and helping the Bengal Tigers to a national championship. “He was on (Tom’s) heels,” Eaves says, “but Tom was our No. 1 player.”
Eaves also recounts taking his Spartans to Ol’ Colony Golf Complex in Tuscaloosa when the Tide was heavily recruiting Tom. His ace golfer had such an incredible round that a quadruple bogey on No. 18 still left him with a jaw-dropping 68. “I (was) excited,” Eaves recalls of Tom’s showing, “and he wanted to dwell on (how he) he didn’t finish. That was his competitive nature.”
Tom was low medalist in the state tournament as a freshman and a senior. His 12th-grade effort gave Mountain Brook its first team state title on Eaves’ watch. He outshot Jolly for the individual crown.
Through it all, it was Tom’s competitive drive that set him apart. “Tom wants to win,” Eaves says. “Some people have that, but they have some fear. They play not to lose instead of playing to win. Tom had the drive, but he also had the fearless factor. Tom is fearless.”
Tom continued his success on the links as a golfer at Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide to a pair of NCAA national championships. But his senior season would be his most challenging as he lost his father and mentor, Tim Lovelady, on Aug. 10, 2015.
“It was a long process of soul searching, a lot of depression … and it sucked,” Tom told Golfweek. “But you know, there were two ways to look at it: just let that affect me and let my golf go down, or just keep playing hard and do what would make him proud. I feel like I’ve done a good job of that.”
His mother Kitty agrees. “The philosophy of our family since Tim has died is you could either sink or swim,” she says of herself, Tom and his sister, Annie. “You have a choice of how you want to live your life. I just kept telling my kids, ‘We’re gonna get through this. We’re gonna get through this. We’re gonna swim.’”
After finishing at Alabama, Tom thrust himself into golf, playing in local amateur tournaments and finding success. Coincidentally, the day his diploma came in the mail is the day he got his first paycheck from playing golf.
“There’s something to winning money as opposed to winning a trophy,” Kitty says. “When he started getting a paycheck for playing golf, he knew this is what he wants do and he was going to give it his all.”
Tom played in golf’s version of the minor leagues, competing in a number of mini tours. After just one year on the Web.com Tour, he earned his PGA Tour card. He had five top-10 finishes there and ended the season third in driving distance and the leader in putting average and birdie average.
Appearing in a PGA Tour Video, Tom said he learned a lot from his play in the fall and was looking forward to the 2018 season. “I learned that you don’t have to play perfect golf to win,” he says. “I kind of caught myself trying to play too perfect instead of just being myself. Just trying to be consistent in what I’m doing is my main key.”
In another video, Tom was a gracious host as he welcomed the cameras of Inside the PGA Tour to the residence in Jupiter, Florida, he shares with Thomas and Cauley, each a PGA Tour player who is also a University of Alabama alumnus.
“We always have fun,” Tom says. “If we’re not playing golf, we’re definitely hanging out. You’re just free to hang out in the pool and just absolutely do nothing. That time’s crucial.”
Kitty laughs as she is reminded of the video of her son guiding the tour. “They’re slumming it, aren’t they?” she jokes of the lavish accommodations. “Luckily, Justin has made a little bit of money to where they can live in a nice house with a pool. It’s really terrific.”
As he strolls through the house in the video, Tom is quick to point out the Crimson Tide theme that can be found throughout. There’s the Bama cornhole game, the architect’s rendering of Bryant-Denny Stadium and the crimson-felted pool table with the signature script A in the man cave upstairs. “Unfortunately, I’m the cook and the cleaner and take out the trash,” Tom says in the video. “Bud is good about cleaning, but Justin’s more of a supervisor.”
Kitty says moving to Jupiter was the best decision of her son’s life. He’s living with seasoned professionals and has a perfect view of their work ethic and how they live.
Back in Alabama, Kitty watches her son reach for his goal. And even when he has done well, hers has not always been a comfortable seat. “You pray constantly he’ll play well,” she says. “I still am that way today. Now my worry is I hope he can stay on the Tour next year. I hope he makes the top 125. There’s never a time as a parent that you don’t worry.”
But, she adds, there is solace. “To make a living at what you love? I don’t know many people who can say that.”