Levi gets in under wire, wins Classic

Champ shoots 68, leads after all 3 rounds

Irwin, Thorpe tie event record

October 04, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Some charged out fast, others came from way back and yet another seemed right in Wayne Levi's hip pocket throughout most of yesterday's final round of the Constellation Energy Classic at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley.

But Levi - well-aware the competition would be coming - didn't flinch.

With four timely birdies and no bogeys, the New Hartford, N.Y., native posted a 4-under-par 68 to finish with a three-round score of 16-under 200 that gave him a two-stroke win over Hale Irwin. Rodger Davis, who stayed one shot back through the middle of the round, finished third at 13-under.

Levi, 52, became the second player in as many weeks to go wire-to-wire for a Champions Tour victory. Last week, Craig Stadler claimed the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C., and Levi, who finished tied for eighth, was there taking notes.

"I played with Stadler [last week] and he just kept on making birdies," said Levi, who earned $240,000. "I just thought if he can do it, why can't I? I just said: `Keep forging ahead like he did. You can't be slouching off because there was guys chasing you from every angle.'"

Setting the tone in Friday's opening round by tying the course and tournament records with a 64, Levi stood his ground by staying aggressive against a hungry, bunched-up field that did the same yesterday.

Yesterday, Levi used two holes as turning points to help him fend off the numerous challenges. The first was the 12th hole, when he had an 8-iron approach that spun back for a 35-foot birdie putt. That putt came 7 feet short, but he was able to save par.

"You don't want to give back a shot. If you miss that putt, you can get a little unnerved and press a little more. But that kept me going, kept me level," he said.

It also kept him one shot up on Davis at the time, while Irwin was also making his late charge.

He got that stroke back with his fourth and final birdie later on No. 16, working his way out of a trap after his drive went left. A sand wedge from 70 yards gave him an uphill putt, which he made from 10 feet for a two-shot lead he never relinquished.

Irwin and Jim Thorpe, who started the day at 4-under, both tied the course and tournament record, matching Levi's 64 from Friday.

Irwin's 14-foot birdie putt on No. 18 gave him the round of 64 that put him in the clubhouse at 14-under and one shot back of Levi. But Levi came back to birdie No. 16, reclaiming a two-stroke lead.

Thorpe, who spent five years in the Baltimore area beginning in 1968, made the most of his last round here yesterday, but had to settle for a tie of the course and tournament records with the 8-under round that put him tied for fourth with Graham Marsh at 12-under.

Thorpe, who now resides in Heathrow, Fla., was at 8-under for the day through No. 16, but was unable to get a record-breaking birdie despite chances on the last two holes. After his round, he reflected on his days playing on the various Baltimore County public courses that helped him get to where he is now.

"We had some great money games back then, and you really had to make birdies and hit golf shots. Nine out of 10 times, a guy like me, when I played, I didn't have any money so I had no choice but to pick it up a notch. It's always a lot of fun coming back here," Thorpe said.

Jerry Pate, who started four shots back, opened the round with an eagle and two birdies to move one shot back of Levi before four straight pars and a bogey on the eighth left him short. He went on to finish tied for sixth at 11-under.

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