ALEXANDER LEVY – THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TOUCH

With the gold champion's jacket draped over his shoulders on last Sunday, the distinctive trophy in front of him and a cheque for RMB 3.333 million in his back pocket, Alexander Levy would be excused a moment of self-congratulation.

Typically, the popular Frenchman is thinking about others just minutes after winning the RMB 20 million 2017 Volvo China Open at Topwin Golf and Country Club in Huairou Beijing - the fourth European Tour title of his career.

The charismatic 26-year-old has just ended a gallant attempt by South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli to win his first Tour event during a dramatic play-off. At one point, Frittelli had been five shots ahead of the pack before Levy finally reeled him in and extinguished his last remaining chance in the play-off. Despite Levy’s obvious delight at winning, his opponent’s agony was not forgotten.

“I haven’t had a chance to speak to Dylan but when I do I’ll tell him that I totally understand how he feels,” he says. “Three years ago I was also in the same position here in China (Shanghai) when I was leading by five shots but lost in a play-off so I know this feeling.

“The only thing I can say to him is that when you are in that position you are still in with a chance of winning.

“You need to remember that feeling. When I was in that position and lost, of course I was really sad but you work hard to be a better player and from remembering that feeling of losing you work even harder to be better. He can only learn from it.”

Levy has certainly learned over the years since bursting on to the European Tour scene from the ranks of the Challenge Tour at the end of 2012.

In 2014 he became the first Frenchman to win more than once in the same season when he captured the Volvo China Open followed by the Portugal Masters. He seems to have an affinity with Chinese golf as some stunning golf down the stretch brought Levy his first title in China, where he became the 20th different winner of the event in its 20-year history.

Now three years later – following back-to-back wins by Chinese players Wu Ashun and Li Haotong – Levy is back at the top of the tree again after wrapping up career title number four at Topwin Golf and Country Club in Huairou, Beijing and becoming the first two-time winner in the event’s history.

For me it is a great feeling - I promise you when I came to the first tee I said to myself ‘Ok it would be nice to make the top three and I’ll play for that’ but things change so quickly in golf, which is one of the reasons we love this game,” he says with a shrug.

“There is no leader-board between the 12th green and the 15th green. When I left the 12th I was four shots behind so to come to the 15th green and I see that I was only one shot behind… that’s the only point during the day when I thought I had a chance of winning the tournament."

And win he did. Few watching will forget his Gallic mini-sprint up the 18th after firing a brilliant second shot on to the green in regulation play or the outburst of passionate emotion when his birdie putt dropped on the same hole during the play-off.

We practice for moments like that (the playoff) and I enjoy being in that position. Do I like playing in China? The country is a lucky place for me and not only just at the Volvo China Open – I’ve also finished seventh, third and fourth here so I really like the place that’s for sure!

“Winning this year is definitely a different feeling from 2014 because your first win is always special. After that you always feel the same when you are under pressure but it is easier to handle if you have already won a tournament.”

The Frenchman is now firmly established as one of the new rising swell of young stars on the European Tour. His love of golf began at a young age when he first picked up a club at the age of just three in the USA.

After moving back to France with his pharmacist parents in 1994, he developed his game through his youth before representing France in the Eisenhower Trophy alongside Romain Wattel and Johann Lopez-Lazaro.

He finished 30th in the Rankings in his debut European Challenge Tour campaign in 2012 he went to the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage and took the 24th card at PGA Catalunya Resort to earn a rookie season on the European Tour.

With the Volvo China Open and the Portugal Masters already under his belt, he edged out England’s Ross Fisher at the second hole of a tense play-off to secure the European Open at Bad Griesbach in Germany. In doing so he became the youngest Frenchman in history to claim their first three European Tour titles at the age of just 26 years and 55 days, beating the previous record of Grégory Bourdy.

With France now having secured the right to host the Ryder Cup on its soil in 2018, there is little doubt as to Levy’s desire to play in the bi-annual event and he’ll have done his chances no harm with a course record 63 at Topwin under the appreciative gaze of playing partner and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

Do I think Thomas was impressed?” he asks with a laugh. “You’d have to ask him that question. I like Thomas - he is a funny guy – and I’d be lying if I said to you that the Ryder Cup isn’t a target for me. It would be a dream to play in the Ryder Cup in France and I will be doing all I can to make the team.”

But while Levy’s win at the Volvo China Open will only help boost his standings in the Official World Golf Ranking and The Race to Dubai - Ryder Cup points are not available until September - he has the consolation of the trophy and the prize-money… not to mention that stylish golden jacket.

“That’s two now,” he says as he feels the smooth silk of his winner’s outfit. “Maybe I will wear it when I go out to a night club dancing with my friends!”

He may be joking but it would be an appropriate fashion statement for Alexander Levy, the Chinese specialist with the golden touch…

 

The 23rd staging of the Volvo China Open takes place from April 27th-30th at Topwin Golf and Country Club, Beijing. Volvo was the first western brand to engage with golf in China in 1995, and this will be Volvo's 86th tournament on the European Tour. The prize fund is RMB 20 million. The tournament is organized by the China Golf Association with Volvo Car Event Management as co-organizer and promoter, and is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and OneAsia.

(2017-04-30)

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