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JUST AN ABOVE-AVERAGE GUY
Sally Jenkins
December 17, 1990
In 1990 Wayne Levi won four times on the PGA Tour
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December 17, 1990

Just An Above-average Guy

In 1990 Wayne Levi won four times on the PGA Tour

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The most obvious deficiency in Levi's career is the fact that in his 13 years on the Tour he has never finished higher than 10th in a major championship. He claims he despises the elitism of the majors. He has never even entered the British Open. The mere thought of the Masters and Magnolia Lane, where a guard once refused to let him pass, agitates him. "I get mad before I even go," he says. "They give you a hard time about tickets, they make you wait, the clubhouse gets the food orders wrong every time, they don't publish the purse so you have to wait for them to tell you how much you're playing for. It's things like that that aggravate you." The U.S. Open torments him almost as much. "It's murder," he says. "Traffic, you can't get in restaurants...." As long as Levi feels this way, chances are that he will continue to fare poorly in the majors, despite his ambition to remedy his record. "To win that many tournaments but not have a major is unusual, he says. "At least a couple of majors should be in there."

He is a loner who calls socializing on the circuit "a waste of time." His routine is to practice, play, go back to the driving range where he'll beat balls until dark, order a pizza in his hotel, flip open his briefcase and read financial publications until he falls asleep. "I'm not there to sightsee, fool around, go to the movies," he says. "I'm there, I work hard."

What Levi may be is sound, a man who knows how to maximize his profits and minimize his losses. He plays his game very much the way he plays the stock market. Idle socializing may be a waste of energy to him, but pro-ams and clinics are not. "You're around a lot of influential people; you can talk business," he says. "I know a lot of guys don't care diddly about that. I think from playing golf you have that instinct to gamble. You're looking at a lot of hazards out there; you learn to stay away from mistakes, when to play more conservatively."

Even when he was winless on the Tour, Levi seemed to find ways to make money. He finished in the top 10 seven times in 1989, despite putting troubles. He is not above entering late-season tournaments in which he knows the fields will be weak. "You can make a nice piece of change," he says. "Let's face it, every time Norman's not in the tournament there's another $100,000 for somebody." Yet his wins this year came against reasonably strong fields. His four-stroke victory in the Western, at difficult Butler National, came over Norman, Payne Stewart, Tom Watson, Curtis Strange, Wayne Grady and Jose-Maria Olazabal.

All of which says that Levi is an enigma, an average guy who does things averagely yet produces above-average results. Here is a statistical quirk that appeals to him: He was no better than 40th in any of the 10 PGA Tour statistical categories this season, but on the Tour's performance charts for the decade of the '80s, he ranks in the top 25 in greens in regulation, driving accuracy, par breakers, birdies and scoring average.

Levi doesn't mind being underrated and overlooked. And in fact, it may be useful. "I don't do anything great," he says. "I just do everything good. But if you add it up and then divide, I'll be there."

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