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After 15 years, 38-year-old Spencer Levin a winner again as KFT Monday qualifier


A little over five months ago, Spencer Levin bogeyed his final hole at the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School to fall a stroke shy of guaranteed starts. That left the 38-year-old Levin, six years removed from playing the PGA Tour on a full-time basis, in familiar territory: starting another year without full status.

But as Levin noted Sunday, “That bogey’s history now.”

Before winning the KFT’s Veritex Bank Championship by a shot for his first world-ranked victory in 15 years, Levin wasn’t even in the field at the beginning of the week. Having made just one cut in three KFT starts this year, a T-50 in Chile, Levin debated signing up for the Monday qualifier and sent in his entry less than two days before the deadline. He got through, firing 8-under 64, and arrived at Texas Rangers Golf Club in Arlington, Texas, enamored with the way he was hitting the ball.

“I didn’t know I was going to win,” Levin said, “but I knew I was going to play well.”

With firm fairways and windy conditions playing right into the surgical ball-striker’s hands, Levin relentlessly chipped away at a six-shot deficit to 54-hole leader Brett Drewitt with six birdies in his first 11 holes on Sunday. During his climb up the leaderboard, Levin kept telling his caddie, “Gotta catch the leader.” By the time he caught glimpse of a scoreboard at No. 13, he had.

One more birdie, he thought to himself at that point. “And probably a couple,” Levin added.

Levin birdied No. 15 to reach 19 under while Drewitt, in the threesome behind, gained a shot at No. 14 to remain tied for the lead. When Levin arrived at the par-5 finishing hole, he figured he’d need eagle to win outright. But Drewitt’s bogey at No. 17 dropped him to second, meaning the pressure was off Levin as he prepared to hit his 3-footer for birdie to cap a closing 63 and 20-under week.

Typically, Levin looks at the hole one last time before striking his short putts. But on this occasion, he skipped that step, addressing his ball with the 2004 HammY putter that he retrieved from his dad’s garage last fall and with his split grip, quickly beginning his putting motion.

“I don’t know what it was,” Levin said, “but something kind of came over me where I felt good about everything, and I never really had any doubt.”

Never a doubt indeed. Levin birdied, Drewitt missed an eagle chip to shoot 70 and finish a shot back, and Levin lifted his first notable trophy since notching his third career Canadian Tour victory in 2008.

Levin earned his PGA Tour card a year later, in 2009, and spent nearly a decade out on the big tour, reaching No. 60 in the world rankings during that span, before losing his card at the end of the 2016-17 season. He’s played just five Tour events since.

Now a father of three, including a 7-month-old boy, who splits time between homes in Elk Grove, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona, Levin was asked Sunday what the 19-year-old version of himself, the one who tied for 13th at the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock, would say if he was told his first win in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event (the Canadian Tour was not back then) would come in 2023.

Levin was honest in his response: “I don’t even know if I would’ve wanted to keep really doing it.”

But then he quickly remembered that playing competitive golf is the only thing his professional self has known.

“I don’t know,” he continued. “It’s been a long time, but [golf], it’s something I’ve always done, and I think every pro golfer will tell you that regardless if they haven’t done it, if they have a little bit of belief in them, they always kind of picturing the day happening, and I’ve been picturing a day like this for a long time.”

Levin, who has been sober for two years, wasn’t planning on much of a celebration. His victory didn’t just make him fully exempt the rest of the season; it slotted him in at No. 11 in points.

And with the top 30 in points at season’s end graduating to the PGA Tour, Levin was excited to get back on the saddle this coming week at the Lecom Suncoast Classic in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, and further solidify a return trip to the big show.

“There’s been a couple miles in between then and now,” Levin said. “But we’re starting new now. Last win was 2 minutes ago.”

That’s history, too.