Lisa Pavin’s become the most high-profile captain’s wife in the history of the Ryder Cup, and to hear her tell it, she has no idea why.
“It’s taken on a life of its own but I really don’t deserve this much attention,” the attractive 36-year-old says.
“I laugh because I think, ‘Wow, I haven’t done anything to have so many people talking about me.’”
For that to be true, however, would require a very loose definition of “haven’t done anything.”
Posing provocatively for the cover of a magazine wearing only a red, white and blue sheet — and a large crucifix — and engaging in public spats with members of the media doesn’t exactly fit the traditional mold of a stay-in-the-background Ryder Cup captain’s wife.
But Lisa Pavin, the ambitious daughter of Vietnamese refugees who grew up in Iowa, isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight or limit herself to choosing the napkins for the team room at Celtic Manor.
The “captainess” — a term she and her husband both embrace — has been intimately involved in every detail of the American Ryder Cup campaign.
She speaks confidently of her “business mind,” of wanting to help “build the brand” of the Ryder Cup and of not wanting to be remembered as just a golfer’s wife.
While acknowledging that his wife’s garnered a lot of attention, Pavin doesn’t think she will turn into a distraction at Celtic Manor next week, even if he knows the Fleet Street tabloids will try their best to make her one.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” he says.
“A lot’s been said about that photograph, but to me, I thought it was done in great taste. I thought it was a beautiful picture and she’s a beautiful woman and I’m lucky to have her as my wife.”
Pavin defends his wife — who was his personal assistant before they became romantically involved — from criticism that she’s merely seeking attention; looking to get her 15 minutes of fame.
He says her passion about the Ryder Cup has been misinterpreted.
“She loves the Ryder Cup because I love the Ryder Cup,” he says.
“She’s taking my passion for it for herself. We have the same goal in mind. We want to make this a great Ryder Cup for Team USA. She’s trying to enable my dreams and aspirations as team captain and she’s doing a really, really good job.”
He defends her, too, in her run-ins with members of the media, specifically Golf Channel contributor Jim Gray, who reported during the PGA Championship that Pavin told him that he’d decided to put Tiger Woods on the American team.
Even though Pavin ultimately did use one of his captain’s picks on Woods, he denied having confided that to Gray, leading to a verbal altercation in the media center at Whistling Straits in which Lisa Pavin figured prominently.
“Lisa’s her own person and everybody has their own personality and part of her personality is not to take grief unwarranted. And that’s my personality too,” Pavin said. “She’s just aggressive, and in this day and age with social media, it gets out there pretty quickly.”
Lisa Pavin, meanwhile, doesn’t think she’s got anything to apologize about.
“Everything’s been blown way out of proportion,” she says.
She calls the cover shot for Avid Golfer magazine just “about me being patriotic.”
“That (photograph) was very important to me — that’s why I hired my own photographer to do it because I wanted it to be tasteful,” she says. “And, look, the PGA knew about it; it was OK with them.
“If people were to actually read the article, they’d see it’s about the inside of Lisa Pavin, which has never been written about before because I don’t sit down and do interviews. I’ve turned down so many different types of interviews because that’s just not me.
“My role is only to help Corey, to step in wherever he needs me to step in.”
She was intimately involved in everything from the team uniforms to the selection of gifts for players and wives, from menus for the week to the décor in the American rooms.
But Lisa Pavin says her only role next week will be to “take care of the wives, make sure they have everything they need.”
Which raises another issue: Just why is it that the WAGs have such a prominent role at Ryder Cups?
“When I hear people say, ‘At Ryder Cups, why are the wives so involved?’ I think, ‘Why wouldn’t they be?” she says.
“Golf is a very individual sport, so at the end of the day when you come home, your wife is your best friend, your confidante, your lover, your sports psychologist. A wife plays a very big role in a golfer’s life. I think a wife’s as big a part of your team as your caddie.
“So when people say the wives are having a more important role, well, yeah, that’s because we should. We play a very integral role in the life of a golfer and therefore we’re going to play a very integral role in the (U.S.) team.”
Pavin’s equally unapologetic about her spats with journalists.
“If your husband was in any way being put down, whether it’s being ambushed at a press conference or being talked about badly, you’re going to defend him, period,” she says. “It’s a natural instinct. I’m not going to have my reputation tarnished or my husband’s reputation tarnished.