It does if you’re Spencer Levin, and a reporter is watching.
Levin, who finished an eye-opening 13th as an amateur at the 2004 U.S. Open, was trying to qualify for the Mark Christopher Charity Classic on Monday in Yucaipa. I remember him from UCLA. He was the stud golfer who got suspended from the team for the vaguest of reasons, “violating team policy.” I figured he maybe uttered a profanity at a teammate. Perhaps he didn’t wear a tie to a team dinner. Something stupid. Something golf. Imagine how blown away I was when I found out he broke a club over his knee in the middle of a tournament.
Levin turned out to be a repeat offender over the years: throwing stuff, smoking up and down the course, uttering verbal profanities during the holy polo-shirt-and-slacks game of golf. But he was also damn good. Not many people can finish tied for 13th at the U.S. Open. Even Tiger Woods would miss the cut two years later. And yet, like a NASCAR fan secretly hoping to see a spectacular, life-threatening crash, I was half hoping Levin would do something unholy on Monday.
So I parked myself on the 18th hole. Levin knew he needed to reach the hole in three strokes. I didn’t realize this until his second shot landed about 20 feet from the cup. His playing partner, Stephen Perez, eyed the approach shot on the green and yelled back to Levin, “about 20 feet.” In a strange way, Levin revealed his intelligence when he slammed his club to the ground emphatically, then kicked it several feet to his left. He realized that his 20-foot putt wouldn’t land without a miracle, a 68 wouldn’t make the cut at a Nationwide Tour qualifier, especially at Yucaipa, a relatively easy course. Where some golfers would lower their head and shake it, Levin made it perfectly clear to everyone his day was over. Turns out he was right. He missed the cut by 2 strokes.
Levin has been a regular this year on the Canadian Tour, earning two wins. He entered the British Open and missed the cut by four strokes. And, perhaps surprisingly, he is a very cordial interview. We need more athletes like him (see my entry on Tony Stewart). Fewer role models, but more athletes. I missed him leaving UCLA, and I’ll miss him this weekend at Empire Lakes, for all the right reasons and some of the wrong ones.