Death in family leaves Levin with pain, perspective
- By Rex Hoggard
- Aug 30, 2012 7:31 PM ET
NORTON, Mass. – Two years ago Spencer Levin slumped onto a bench in the TPC Boston locker room lamenting his spot on the money list, “How much (money) do you think it will take to keep my (Tour) card?” he asked.
On Wednesday in fading light he propped himself against a fence post outside that same locker room and considered how relatively superficial money lists and Tour status seem following an emotional two weeks back home in California.
Following another solid season Levin was preparing for the FedEx Cup playoffs on Aug. 18 when his father, former Tour player Don Levin, called to tell him his stepbrother, Blake Wiklund, had been found dead in his Sacramento apartment.
Levin, who began the playoffs 45th on the FedEx Cup points list, withdrew from the postseason opener last week at Bethpage to grieve with his family and attend the funeral.
“It’s one of those things, it’s just hard to believe,” Levin said as he prepared for this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. “It’s crazy man, hard to believe.”
If closure is what Levin was seeking during his two-week hiatus there still seemed to be more questions than answers following last Friday’s funeral.
“We haven’t got the autopsy back. A lot of unanswered questions, we’re kind of waiting on it,” Levin said. “They found him and there was no trauma, no broken bones, nothing, so we don’t know what really happened yet.”
According to a spokesperson for the Sacramento Police Department, Wiklund’s death is still an open case.
For the 28-year-old Levin it’s all part of a painful open-ended grieving process.
Wiklund was 6 months older than Levin and although they were stepbrothers their relationship ran deeper than a disjointed modern family tree. The two grew up in the same house since they were 2 years old, played Little League baseball together and remained close despite Levin’s hectic travel schedule.
Levin last spoke with Wiklund in late July before heading to the Reno-Tahoe Open. “We had a couple of beers and hung out . . . everything was fine,” he said.
Taking last week off was an easy decision for Levin. Returning for this week’s Deutsche Bank turned out to be just as straightforward.
“I was thinking about playing this weekend and I just figured he would have wanted me to play. I hadn’t played any golf at home last week and just wanted to get out of the house and try to get away for a little bit and clear my head,” Levin said. “I know it’s going to be hard because I think about him all the time.”
It’s a familiar refrain for those who have endured a loss. In many ways the job becomes a refuge, a place where painful thoughts are replaced by the process however temporarily.
“It was a little hard coming back this week, but at the same time last week was so hard, it was hard on everybody,” Levin said. “I kind of wanted to come and play to try and get my mind off of things. Try to get back to work a little bit.”
That work now seems a little less stressful is also to be expected. Considering that two years ago Levin’s Labor Day weekend was consumed by the day-to-day minutiae of being a Tour pro, this year’s Deutsche Bank almost seems mundane by comparison.
Perspective was never part of renowned psychologist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ guide to death and dying, but for a player who has endured his share of peaks and valleys, a few of which have admittedly been self-inflicted, Levin has gained an unexpected epiphany from Wiklund’s death.
“It shows you what’s important in your life,” Levin admitted. “It made me realize I kind of enjoy playing golf, instead of trying to beat myself all the time. Made me realize I’m lucky to do this. It’s fun.”
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