Sept. 10, 2004
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Spencer Levin, a junior on the New Mexico men's golf team, is coming off one of the best summers ever by an amateur. Levin arrived at New Mexico for the 2004 spring season after transferring from UCLA. In his first season with the Lobos, Levin won medalist honors at the John Burns Intercollegiate, finished in the top-20 in six tournaments, posted the second lowest 54-hole score in school history at 201, carded a career-best round of 63 and was named a second team All-American.
This summer Levin finished tied for 13th at the U.S. Open, which was good for low amateur honors. The 13th place finish for Levin was also the best finish by an amateur in 33 years and gave him an exemption to the 2005 U.S. Open. Levin took the momentum from the U.S. Open and won the California State Amateur and Scratch Players Championship over the next two weeks. Levin was then named the Southern Golf Associations Amateur of the month for the month of June. Levin did not stop there though as he won the Porter Cup and NCGA Amateur, finished second at the Pacific Coast Amateur and Southern Amateur and advanced to the round of 16 of the U.S. Amateur.
Levin now back in Albuquerque sat down for a conversation and answered questions about his successful summer and this year's team.
A SUMMER TO REMEMBER
Talk about your summer accomplishments and what it meant to you?
It was a great summer. I played well in every tournament I played in and it means a lot for me just in terms of how I feel as a player. I am just really happy with the way it went. I worked really hard and I practice hard all the time and it finally paid off this summer.
Did you play your best golf this summer or were the results just better this summer?
I played really well the first month of the summer at the U.S. Open, California State Amateur and the Scratch Players. I still played well at my next few tournaments. I finished second in the next one, then I won again, lost in a playoff at the next one and then won the NCGA Am. I played well in all those too, it was just at the U.S. Am I probably didn't play as well as I did earlier in the summer. I still had a pretty good tournament, but I just wasn't playing up to the level I was playing earlier in the summer.
What was it like going to the U.S. Open and playing against players you watch every week on television?
At first it was a little intimidating and everything, but actually the old coach at UCLA Eddie Merrins came up to me and said "Spence take advantage of this opportunity, because you can play as well as anybody out here." He said that to me right before the first round and that made me think ok I am ready to play now. At first I was a little intimidated but when he told me that it made me feel like I was just playing a college tournament.
What was it like standing on the 18th green with Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson?
That was unbelievable. I was walking down there from the scorers tent with those guys it was pretty special. It was something I wanted, after I qualified for the U.S. Open I was thinking that the low amateur at the Open would be awesome. I did it and that ceremony was great. It is something that I will never forget.
How fast were the greens at the US Open?
The first three rounds they were really fast and the last day they were probably twice as fast as the first three rounds. The last round on uphill putts you were just thinking don't hit it too far by on uphill putts. It was really fast.
What was it like to have your father on the bag for you at the US Open on Father's Day?
That was awesome. I couldn't have done it without him. He taught me the game, he is my swing coach and I probably wouldn't even play if it wasn't for him. I am pretty sure that's just how he would have wanted his Fathers day to have been.
How tired were you making the flight across the US and then carding a 68 at the first round of the California State Amateur?
It was weird actually when I first got there that morning I went out and played Poppy Hills that day. I still had some adrenaline still going from the Open, so I wasn't that tired, but the next round I was really tired and it kind of caught up to me. The first round though I was still really pumped from the Open, so it felt just like I got up that morning.
Did you think that you were going to get to the California Amateur in time?
I knew it was going to be close. It was actually nice of the California Golf Association they moved my tee time back, because they knew I was going to have trouble getting there and when they did that I was able to make it. I probably barely would have made it anyway at the right time but the fact that they moved it back for me was really nice.
What was it like having four teammates join you at the US Amateur?
That was great. I think we probably had more then any other team in the country. That just shows that we have a real strong team and I think our team has a chance to play really well this year. I don't think there is any expectations that we can't meet.
Are you looking forward to playing on the US World Amateur team in Puerto Rico?
It is something I have been working towards all summer and the fact that they are only choosing three guys out of the whole country and I am one of them is just an honor. I have never represented my country before and the fact that I am going to get to do that is like a dream come true. It is just all that hard work I put in paying off.
What are your expectations for this year's team?
I think we should do better at nationals this year. We won conference last year and we should have won regionals. I think we have as good a team as anybody this year. Everybody wants to win the big one and I think if we get it going at that time that would be great. I expect us to win a couple other tournaments along the line, but I definitely think we shoud win the NCAAs. That is everybody's goal and I think our team honestly has a chance to do that.
What are your expectations for yourself this season?
I never give myself expectations or I never say this is what I should do or shouldn't do, because if you don't meet it you feel like you failed. I never have a goal I know it sounds weird but I just go out there and try my hardest on every shot and if I do that then I will be doing the best I can.
What has Coach Millican done to help you here at New Mexico?
He has just been a great guy and he has always been on my side. Just the fact that he gave me a scholarship to come and play here was great. Everything he has got in terms of practice facility wise and just being there whenever I have a question he is always there ready to answer it. He is just a good person and he is definitely been a friend of mine since I have known him.
The team is playing over in Japan this fall, so are you excited about traveling to Japan?
Yes, I love travelling and I love sushi, so it should be a great time. It is going to be a totally new experience and I am looking forward to it and I know everybody on the team is looking forward to it too.
Are you excited about the opportunity to play in a select tournament with the top-30 collegiate golfers in the country?
It is going to be great. I saw a bunch of guys in there last year that I beat all the time and I don't want to sound cocky but I didn't make it last year because I was at UCLA and I left before the season ended, so I knew had to get back in college and get back and start playing well again. I can't wait to play in it and it should be good experience and it should be fun.
13 FINAL QUESTIONS
Who is your role model and why?
It would have to be my dad because he has always been there for me through ups and downs. He taught me the game and he has been my friend, my teacher and my dad all at once. I have always been his first priority and I am lucky to have a dad like that. I know that not many people have dads like that.
What is your favorite golf course?
Pebble Beach. It is probably the most beautiful golf course in the world and I have had a lot of success there, so that is definitely my favorite course.
What is the toughest golf course you have played?
Shinnecock Hills is probably the hardest course I have played. Winged Foot was pretty hard to in the amateur. I would have to say they are both pretty close, so either Winged Foot or Shinnecock Hills.
What club do you have the most confidence in?
My driver. I can usually drive the ball in the fairway and that's the club I feel most confident with.
What is the best part of your game?
It depends on the week I guess. Some weeks I am putting good and some weeks I am hitting it good. It is hard to say it just depends on the week I am playing.
If you could only win one major, which one would it be and why?
U.S. Open. It is the biggest tournament in the world and I think every golfer dreams about winning the U.S. Open, at least in the United States. The guys in Europe it might be the British Open, but I definitely think the U.S. Open would be the best tournament to win.
What CD is in your CD player right now?
Stone Temple Pilots
What was the last movie you saw?
What is your favorite TV show?
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite restaurant?
If you had to play another sport, what would it be and why?
Baseball. I grew up playing baseball and quit playing baseball when I was 16 for golf. Our high school coach wouldn't let us play two sports in the same season.
Favorite professional team?
San Francisco Giants
What is the best thing about Albuquerque?