Levin returns to form to shoot a 65
Appeal Sports Writer
DAYTON – If you follow golf seriously, you know Spencer Levin.
The diminutive 5-foot-8 ball-striker from Elk Grove, Ca. was a two-time All-American from the University of New Mexico and stunned the golf world by tying for 13th place at the 2005 U.S. Open, his first professional tournament. It was the best finish by an amateur since 1971.
Levin won more than $89,000 during his short stint on the PGA Tour, including approximately $18,000 at the 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open, but it wasn’t enough to earn his full-time PGA card, and he was forced to go to qualifying school last year. One bad round in Stage 1 cost him dearly, and Levin is determined not to let that happen again.
Levin, who was in danger of not getting out of Stage 1 qualifying for the second straight year, fired a final-round 65 to finish with an 11-under-par 277 which was good for 11th place. In two weeks, he’ll venture to Oak Valley in Southern California for Stage 2.
Levin finished four strokes behind Ron Harvey Jr., who led all qualifiers with a 15-under 273 following a final-round 69.
Brandon Harnden, the third-round leader, and Matthew Zions tied for second at 274. Ryan Ellis was fourth at 275, James Drew (68) and Scott Gordon (69) tied for fifth at 276. Nathan Whitson (65), Michael Dermonio (68), ex-Galena star Travis Whisman (70) and Chris Kamin (69) tied for seventh at 277. All told, 27 players moved on to the next stage, which takes place in two weeks.
“I played really good today,” Levin said. “I didn’t miss a shot all day. I missed one green where the approach went through the green, but I got up and down. I drove it great and holed a couple of putts to save par.”
Levin’s round included seven birdies, as he peppered the flagsticks all day. He hit a wedge to 10 feet for birdie on No. 2, chipped to 2 feet on No. 3 and hit the putt for another birdie and hit an 8-iron to 2 feet on No. 5 for his third birdie on the front and ended his front side with a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 9 after another brilliant 8-iron.
On the back nine, he drained birdie putts of 2 feet on No. 11, 6 feet on No. 12 and 8 feet on No. 15.
Levin has been known for temperamental outbursts during his career, and he seems to be getting a better handle on things. He had some success on the Spanos Tour, winning once and finishing in the top-5 a couple of times.
“I think so,” Levin said when asked if he though his mental toughness and maturity had improved. “I just don’t give up out there. I have been getting better. You are going to hit bad shots, and I know it’s not the end of the world.”
Whisman will be making his second consecutive trip to Stage 2 qualifying. He put together back-to-back 70s at Dayton, and he’s optimistic about his chances.
Whisman said he struck the ball better the last two days than he did in the first two days, but his score didn’t reflect it. That’s one of the frustrating things about golf.
Whisman recorded three birdies and had one bogey.
Harnden struggled to a 74, but was never in danger of not moving on.
“I didn’t have work to do today,” Harnden said. “Five and one half hours out there. It was a real grind. Everybody was grinding out there trying to make the cut.”
Notes: There were four 65s on Friday – Levin, Whitson, Ben Lammi and Christian Pena. Neither Pena or Lammi made the cut … A total of 36 players in the 78-man field broke par on Friday … David Brown withdrew after 36 holes and Charles Raulerson withdrew after 54 holes … Stage 2 qualifying is also four rounds, but Stage 3 qualifying, which includes players who qualify out of Stage 2 and current PGA players who finished between 126th and 150th on the money list, is a grueling six-round event.