Spencer Levin burst onto the golf scene at the U.S. Open in 2004, where as a brash 20-year-old amateur he finished tied for 13th at the brutally tough Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. Known as a fiery competitor with a bit of a temper, Spencer has developed a solid all-around game that has him poised to break out on tour. Last year’s highlights included a third place finish in Phoenix and a tie for fourth at the prestigious Memorial Tournament. We found out what he’s up to as he rehabs a cranky thumb and prepares to get back to climbing the leaderboard.
(Photo by IZOD)
So, after a couple of strong seasons, you’re on the shelf with a thumb injury.
Yeah. It’s a lot better than it was, but I’m taking this year off with a medical exemption from the tour—which is kind of like being red-shirted in college—and coming back in the fall. It’s weird because the new season starts in the fall. I’ll be back then.
What are you going to do to stay sharp in the meantime?
Pretty much the same stuff, working on my swing, trying to stay in shape.
Is there an upside to not playing?
It’s interesting. I’ve never had a year off before. I’m not used to being home. I’m usually traveling every week. It’s cool. I have some time to myself and I get to enjoy my friends and family. It's nice to see those friendly faces, that’s for sure.
You have a reputation as a fiery guy on the course. Do you get an edge out of playing with a little emotion?
I don’t even think about it. It’s kind of natural. I’ve always been cocky. I grew up playing baseball, which was really competitive in my town. That’s probably where I got my competitiveness.
What do you say to people who think golfers have an easy life?
It’s nice to be able to play a game you love for a living. I wouldn’t even know what the hell else I would do if I didn’t play golf. At the same time, the sport is difficult to play for a living. There’s no guaranteed money like in other sports. You shoot two 75s and you get zero dollars that week. I’m not talking down any other sports. They get paid and they deserve it. All I’m saying is when you go 0-4 or throw three picks, you still get paid the same as if you had a great game. That’s the difference between golf and other sports.
We envision young guys on tour traveling with a duffel bag and ironing their pants at a Motel 6. Now that you’re with IZOD, that’s not a problem, right?
No. It’s great. They give you an idea what they’d like you to wear, but you don’t have to do it exactly like they want.
Like, if what they give you is a little flashier than you’re feeling that week?
Well, I’ve never really worn bright colors or anything too fancy before, but their stuff is really cool. I’m into it.
You’re from a golfing family. Did you start playing really young?
Yeah, my dad was a pro and toured for a couple of years, and my grandfather was really good. I kind of grew up with it. I didn’t play a lot, but when I did they’d show me the right grips and stance and all that. So when I started playing, it came easy. I didn’t have any weird habits.
Who were your golf heroes as a kid?
I wasn’t a really big golf fan. When I was 13 or 14, Tiger came out and was kicking ass and won the Masters by about a million strokes. After that I started watching golf and wanting to play. By the time I was 16, I couldn’t stop playing.
What’s one tip you have for the average golfer to help him cut a few strokes off his score?
Honestly, most average players never hit it straight, so you always see them in trouble in the trees, and they try to hit a miracle shot. If you’re in the trees, just get it back out and go from there. It sounds simple, but the average player is making doubles and triples, and a lot of it has to do with making bad decisions after poor shots. It’s hard to tell people that because they’re not too serious, but some simple course management will get you a better score.