Spencer Levin predictably dashes through the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship
By Adam Brady
This one, in retrospect, was pretty easy to call.
Levin was a dominant force throughout the tournament.
When Spencer Levin made his way to Spyglass Hill for the 101st NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, he did so as arguably the hottest amateur player in the world. Over the course of six major tournaments, exactly 14 players had beaten Levin – 12 of whom were PGA Tour pros.
Those 12 came at the U.S. Open, where Levin notched the highest amateur finish in 33 years. He followed that up days later with his State Amateur title at Pebble Beach, then beat a talented field by 10 shots at the Scratch Players Championship at Bayonet GC. That was trailed by a runner-up finish at the Southern Amateur and another victory at the renowned Porter Cup. He was runner-up (after a playoff) at the Pacific Coast Amateur at Eugene CC the week before his trip back to the Peninsula.
So it was safe to say the 20-year-old was the favorite at the NCGA Amateur Match Play, even more so considering he had already won the event two years before. And unlike that point in his life, Levin’s well-documented stormy demeanor was markedly improved.
There was certainly something familiar about the way Levin, from Valley Hi CC, stampeded through his matches at Spyglass Hill. He never saw the 18th hole until his final match, and that was only because it was a “scheduled” 36 holes. Less than two months earlier, just down the road at Pebble Beach, Levin did essentially the same thing in the State Amateur. He hit almost every fairway, virtually every green, launched seemingly every iron shot the perfect distance and made nearly every putt he was supposed to make. Heck, he even wore the same “lucky” shirt, a purple print with a Pebble Beach logo on the chest.
The opponent, 47-year-old Terry Foreman of Antioch GC, was different, but it hardly mattered who Levin was playing. Playing as if he had a plane to catch – which he actually did, to New York for the U.S. Amateur – Levin whitewashed Foreman 11 and 10. It was the largest margin of victory in the 101-year-old championship since Herbert Schultz defeated Hugh Ditzler by the same score in 1930.
Meanwhile, his double of winning the NCGA Amateur and the State Amateur was a repeat of what Patrick Nagle did last year, but was only the 10th time in more than 100 years the feat has been pulled off and the second since 1976.
“That’s just awesome to win both of those,” said the 20-year-old Levin, remaining soft-spoken despite his swaggering on-course image. “It’s so good to be able to do that and I’m glad I got to win this again. This is a good title to have. Anytime you can win on this golf course, it’s good.”
Foreman turned back the clock with an excellent week.
Foreman, while admitting to some fatigue – he carried his own bag in every match but the final – was dumbfounded by Levin’s talent.
“It was just a pleasure watching him play,” said Foreman, who had previously been in the finals in 1982 and made the semis a year later. “He was just calling at least 95 percent of the shots he hit. It was just phenomenal. I’m glad I got to play him because you don’t have too many opportunities to play with the No. 1 amateur, I feel, in the world right now. He’s the best I’ve seen coming up, by far.”
You wouldn’t get much argument from Levin’s other opponents, including NCGA veteran Randy Haag of the Olympic Club, who forced Levin into his tightest match of the week. In a rematch of their semifinal match in 2002, Levin defeated Haag in the quarterfinals 3 and 1, thanks to birdies on two of the match’s last three holes. Later that day, Levin crushed Doug Sager of Alameda Golf Shop GC, 7 and 5. Levin opened the tournament by dispatching Andrew Hoffer, 3 and 2, then overtaking Jose Sanchez, 6 and 5, in the second round.
“It’s never easy,” Levin said. “No matter what the other guy is doing, you’ve still got to hit good shots to beat him.”
Levin’s only setback came after the final round of stroke play qualifying. He, Travis Esway of Granite Bay GC and defending champion Patrick Nagle of Par Royal III GC (who defeated Levin in last year’s State Am final) all tied for the top qualifying scores. But on the third hole of the medalist playoff, Levin dropped out with a par to Esway and Nagle’s birdies, and Esway ultimately prevailed. But Levin got the last laugh as Nagle was eliminated in the first round, while Esway went down in the second.
Foreman hung tough throughout the week to earn his second trip to the finals, 22 years after his first. He took out Ken Sisler of Sierra View CC, 3 and 1, in the first round, then upset veteran Casey Boyns of Monterey Bay (the 1987 and 1996 champion), 1 up that afternoon. The following day, Foreman scrapped out victories over two youngsters, 22-year-old Bobby Powers of Spring Hills GC (1 up) and 21-year-old Adam Sollers of Sharon Heights GCC (3 and 1).
Meanwhile, Levin continued to show a mastery of the normally fearsome Spyglass Hill, which pounded players to an average score of 79.6 during stroke play qualifying. In his semifinal with Sager, Levin lit up the front nine with a front-nine 30 (which admittedly included a conceded 12-foot eagle on the seventh). He was 8-under by the time that match ended on the 13th hole, and elected not to play in despite challenging the course record of 64.
His most memorable birdie of the week came on the 18th hole of the final match. After pulling his tee shot into
Sollers showed his power all the way to the semifinals.
Sager posted some convincing victories.
the trees, he ripped a 3-wood from 230 yards away that somehow stopped eight feet from the hole. He of course poured in the putt to take an astonishing 8-up lead into the break.
“That was an interesting way to make birdie,” said Levin, who had been frustrated by a bogey on the previous hole, despite being only 80 yards away for his approach. “That was funny. I just got a good break and I took advantage of that.”
That made the afternoon round little more than a victory lap. “I didn’t expect anything today and I obviously didn’t expect it to be 11-and-10,” Levin said, possibly with some false modesty. “I wanted to win and I felt like I was playing well enough to win, and I did.”
Levin’s gallery was also similar to the State Am final, as he was followed by father Don Levin, mom Carlene Metzler, stepfather Rod Metzler and a handful of friends. Foreman, while trudging up the final hole of the match, turned to Carlene and said, “You should be proud, Mom.”
Said Don of his son, “He just continues to do what he’s been doing. Every event his focus is not only to play well. He’s thinking right away, I want to win. It’s amazing to watch it from my perspective.”
It’s amazing from every
Stroke Play Qualifying
139 -- Travis Esway, Granite Bay, 70-69#; Patrick Nagle, Par Royal III, 67-72; Spencer Levin, Valley Hi, 67-72.
145 -- Casey Boyns, Monterey Bay 73-72; Bob Niger, Serrano, 73-72.
147 -- Michael Wiechers, Granite Bay, 73-74; Randy Haag, Olympic Club, 75-72.
149 -- Doug Sager, Alameda Golf Shop Players, 75-74; James Hay, Diablo Grande, 72-77; Jeff Gilchrist, Ancil Hoffman, 76-73.
150 -- Roberto Galletti, Jr., Alameda Junior74-76--150
151 -- J.J. Scurich, Pasadera, 75-76; John Balfanz, Scratch Players, 76-75; Terry Foreman, Antioch, 76-75.
152 -- William Moore, Monterey Bay, 77-75; Brian Ward, Woodbridge, 78-74; Jose Sanchez, Monterey Peninsula, 75-77; Joe Negri, Santa Rosa, 76-76; Garrett Larson, Univ of Calif, 74-78; Adam Sollers, Sharon Heights, 77-75.
153 -- Jason Stone, Roddy Ranch, 74-79; Jim Wilson, Butte Creek, 75-78; Eric Losh, Ancil Hoffman, 84-69; John Justus, Green Valley, 73-80; Ken Sisler III, Sierra View, 79-74.
154 -- Jay Westerlund, Discovery Bay, 77-77*; Bobby Powers, Spring Hills, 83-71*; Jason Preeo, Lockeford Springs, 80-74*; Andrew Hoffer, Bennett Valley, 80-74*; Chris Massoletti, Butte Creek, 75-79*; Kevin Nabbefeld, Bethel Church, 77-77*; Michael Jensen, Sharon Heights, 74-80*.
Did Not Make Match Play
154 -- Scott Hardy, Scratch Players, 80-74.
155 -- Matt Fagundes, Fort Washington, 79-76; Dan Bieber, Green Valley, 75-80; Kevin Kobalter, Meadow Club, 76-79; Jerry Ledzinski, Quail Lodge, 75-80; Bryant Reyes, Castlewood, 79-76; Chad Moscovic, Stockton, 77-78; Mark Gardner, Scratch Players, 79-76; Matt Marshall, La Rinconada, 73-82; Jess Stimack, Bennett Valley, 77-78; Scott Gordon, North Ridge, 84-71; Jon Dechambeau, Riverbend, 77-78.
156 -- Dave Swanson, Del Paso, 78-78; Paul Rice, Scratch Players, 79-77; Jason Anthony, Green Valley, 80-76; Steven Strong, Windsor, 84-72; Brady Myers, Colusa, 79-77; Mike Lane, Cherry Island, 77-79.
NCGA President Bob Berg and medalist Travis Esway.
157 -- Michael Vera, Roddy Ranch, 76-81; Andrew Nguyen, Fremont Park, 80-77; Nathan Pistacchio, Fort Washington, 78-79; Kevin Noto, Gilroy, 86-71; Andy Kitchen, Scratch Players, 78-79; Christopher Ancheta, Kabalen, 83-74; Tom Moshier, Kings River, 80-77.
158 -- Mark Dowdy, Olympic Club, 78-80; Joe Beato, Sunnyside, 79-79; Thomas Vanderhoek, Visalia, 82-76; Mark Maguire, Claremont, 79-79; Greg Loosigian, Fort Washington, 79-79; Carlos Corona, The Bridges, 75-83; Jeff Hoffman, Empire Ranch, 78-80; Ryoong Lim, Castlewood, 81-77.
159 -- Clay Rogers, Walnut Creek, 82-77; Trent Tessler, Scratch Players, 80-79; Dustin James Long, Teal Bend, 84-75; Ben Harrison, Granite Bay, 80-79; Jeremy Price, Sunset Whitney, 79-80; Jared Wise, The Bridges, 77-82.
160 -- Spencer Paschall, Rancho Murieta, 77-83.
161 -- David Ellis, Granite Bay, 79-82; Matthew Bass, De Laveaga, 78-83; Rich Rowley, Almaden, 78-83; Ricky Stockton, Salinas, 79-82.
162 -- Travis Davenport, Bennett Valley, 81-81; Jeff Rangel, Buchanan Fields, 80-82.
163 -- Andy Nevin, Roddy Ranch, 80-83; Chris Galvin, Sierra View, 81-82.
164 -- Kyle Metzler, Rancho Murieta, 77-87; Richard Dewey, Tehama, 80-84; Daniel Yonan, Turlock, 81-83.
165 -- Brian Thompson, Silver Creek Valley, 78-87; Dwight Eschliman, Lincoln Park, 82-83; Eddie Davis, Green Valley, 80-85; George McKean Jr., Kings River, 82-83.
166 -- Rick Hicklin, Teal Bend, 88-78; Ron Freeman, De Laveaga, 81-85.
167 -- Neal Cosgrove, Bing Maloney, 83-84; Andrew Moren, Stevinson Ranch, 86-81; Keith Postler, Copper River, 85-82; Dave Halvorson, Del Rio, 85-82.
168 – Luke Allard, San Jose, 85-83; George Birdsong IV, Orinda, 78-90; Dane Olson, Bayonet/Black Horse, 80-88.
170 -- Keith Meuel, Players Choice, 84-86; Jeff Bruce, Blackhawk, 85-85.
171 -- Michael Hassen, Stanford Associates, 86-85; Tory Sherman, Madera, 82-89; Cole Sanders, Spring Creek, 82-89.
172 -- Ken Helwig, Silver Creek Valley, 82-90.
173 -- John Crowe, Stanford Associates, 85-88; Josh Walsh, Spring Valley, 89-84; Dean Prince, Olympic Club, 87-86.
174 -- Ben Herhold, Shoreline, 89-85.
177 -- Robbie Sardinia, The Bridges, 84-93.
180 -- Jonathan Kowalski, Tierra Oaks, 94-86.
182 -- Mike Holt, San Jose, 89-93.
# Won playoff for medalist
Terry Foreman, Antioch (12) def. Ken Sisler, Sierra View (21), 3 and 1; Casey Boyns, Monterey Bay (5) def. Jay Westerlund, Discovery Bay (28), 1 up; William Moore, Monterey Bay (20) def. John Balfanz, Scratch Players (13), 2 and 1 ; Bobby Powers, Spring Hills (29) def. Bob Niger, Serrano (4), Default ; James Hay, Diablo Grande (9) def. Jim Wilson, Butte Creek (24), 3 and 2; Jeff Gilchrist, Ancil Hoffman (8) def. Jason Stone, Roddy Ranch (25), 6 and 4; Adam Sollers, Sharon Heights (16) def. Garrett Larson, University of California (17), 1 up; Travis Esway, Granite Bay (1) def. Chris Massoletti, Butte Creek (32), 6 and 5.
Michael Jensen, Sharon Heights (31) def. Patrick Nagle, Par Royal III (2), 2 and 1; Brian Ward, Woodbridge (15) def. Joe Negri, Santa Rosa (18), 2 and 1; Kevin Nabbefeld, Bethel Church (26) def. Michael Wiechers, Granite Bay (7), 2 up; Doug Sager, Alameda Golf Shop (10) def. Eric Losh, Ancil Hoffman (23), 4 and 2; Spencer Levin, Valley Hi (3) def. Andrew Hoffer, Bennett Valley (30), 3 and 2; Jose Sanchez, Monterey Peninsula (19) def. J.J. Scurich, Pasadera (14), 23rd hole; Randy Haag, Olympic Club (6) def. Jason Preeo, Lockeford Springs (27), 1 up; Roberto Galletti, Jr., Alameda Junior (11) def. John Justus, Green Valley (22), 2 and 1.
Foreman def. Boyns, 1 up; Powers def. Moore, 1 up; Gilchrist def. Hay, 2 up; Sollers def. Esway, 5 and 4; Ward, def. Jensen, 22nd; Sager def. Nabbefeld, 6 and 5; Haag def. Galletti, Jr., 4 and 3; Levin def. Sanchez, 6 and 5.
Foreman def. Powers, 1 up; Sollers def. Gilchrist, 1 up; Sager def. Ward, 3 and 2; Levin def. Haag, 3 and 1.
Foreman def. Sollers, 4 and 3; Levin def. Sager, 7 and 5.
Levin def. Foreman, 11 and 10.