RENO - Spencer Levin was one of the most-heralded amateur golfers in California history, and he's hoping that success carries him to a brilliant career on the PGA Tour.
In 2004, he was the second-ranked amateur and second-ranked collegiate player in the United States at the tender age of 20, and because of that success he turned pro and was granted seven exemptions for the 2005 season.
Paychecks haven't been as forthcoming as Levin had hoped, but he keeps plugging away and working diligently at his game. Levin, who lives in Elk Grove, Calif., has won $10,200, finishing in a tie for 43rd at the BC Open with a 14-under 274.
If he wants to avoid qualifying school next year, he must make nearly around $400,000 the rest of the season to crack the top 125 and earn a full-year exemption. Levin admits it will be extremely tough, but he has the game to earn some top-10 finishes.
"I haven't played that well," said Levin, who carded a first-round 70 at the Reno-Tahoe Open Thursday afternoon. "I played well at the BC Open. I didn't play well the last day (70). I just have to keep doing my thing and see where it takes me.
"I've got some new irons (MacGregor) and I like them a lot. I just need more putts to go in so I can put up some good scores."
Save for rounds of 80 and 74 at the Barclays Classic in late June, Levin hasn't played all that poorly. He was 1-under at both the John Deere Classic and Buick Open, but missed the cut both times.
Reno's Scott McCarron has followed Levin's career closely over the years since they both lived in Sacramento at the same time.
"I talked to him very briefly," McCarron said earlier in the week. "I think that he does (have a future on the tour). He's a good player. He drives the ball very straight. He's a good shotmaker."
Levin showed some of that shotmaking expertise on the final two holes Thursday. He scrambled for a par on the 8th hole (his 17th) with a nice 12-foot putt, and he got up and down from several yards off the green for birdie on the 9th, his finishing hole. He finished with four birdies and two bogeys.
"I was happy with my short game," Levin said. "My chipping was great. My ball-striking wasn't that great. I didn't give myself many close putts for birdies. When I did, I made them. It's a good start, though."
Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
The Levin File
Hometown: Elk Grove, Calif.
College: UCLA and New Mexico
Years on PGA Tour: First
Best Finish: Tied for 43rd at the B.C. Open