Gavan Levenson tees off in this year’s South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club at 11.30am in the company of Niclas Fasth of Sweden and Estanislao Goya of Spain.
It will be the 40th time the 1985 champion plays in the world’s second-oldest national open championship, and his last.
“Unfortunately, the journey’s gone too quickly,” said the man known as ‘Legs’. “It seems like I played my first one just the other day, and here I am playing my last one. But I have been very fortunate, blessed that I’m actually healthy enough to do that.”
He took the title in 1985 at Royal Durban Golf Club from left-handed Phil Simmons during a Sunshine Tour career that included victories at the Sigma Vaal Reefs Open, the Lexington PGA Championship and two titles in the ICL International, as well as an Order of Merit triumph in 1983-84.
“My brother caddied for me at Royal Durban,” Levenson recalled. “It was the first tournament he ever caddied for me, so winning it was fantastic. To win any big tournament, to win the South African Open was a great feat.
“Royal Durban was very difficult that week, and fortunately, I drive pretty straight, so I had a bit of an advantage over the guys. I played really well.”
Glendower has been Levenson’s home course for 46 years, and he is a teaching professional there. So he has intimate knowledge of the course which is drawing high praise from the field gathered for the 103rd South African Open Championship.
He spent the morning before the first round on the course with the most famous of all his pupils, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, passing on some of that knowledge.
“If we were playing this tournament in February or March,” he said, “things would be different, because there hasn’t been much of a chance for much rough to grow. But driving is really important around here. Charl has been here three or four times this week, playing a few practice rounds, getting himself ready for it.”
Levenson was born in Johannesburg. He represented South Africa in the 1976 Eisenhower Trophy and won several major amateur tournaments including the French and Rhodesian Open Amateur Championships in 1978. He turned professional later that year and joined the European Tour the following year, winning the Belgian Open and finishing in 29th place on the Order of Merit in his rookie season.
He’s not setting his expectations for his final fling too high. “The most important thing is I’m going to have fun,” he said. “I have no ambitions of any other thing than to play the best I can. As you get older, the body just doesn’t respond to instructions as well as it used to.
“I’m sure that there are a lot of better players for the fans to follow, but I hope I have some people with me. Most of the people will probably be my family and friends who are just going to get through my last one with me.”