It doesn't pay to play hurt on the PGA Tour, where exempt status is gold and even the world's best players can be one bad year from the outside looking in.
So Spencer Levin potentially faces a big decision in the next month if his surgically repaired left thumb doesn't improve dramatically.
The Sacramentan won't play in the first three full-field tournaments of 2013, Kevin Canning, Levin's agent, said Tuesday.
If he's not 100 percent healthy by the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 7-10, Levin most likely would sit out the season, Canning said.
"He's able to play, and there's not a lot of discomfort, but (the thumb) is stiff and he's noticed a little weakness in it," Canning said. "He's flinching at impact and doesn't really trust it. Playing back-to-back (days) has been a problem, too."
Levin, 28, had surgery in early October to repair a torn ligament. The surgery was a success, Canning said, and Levin is expected to make a complete recovery. Timing is the issue.
Levin typically does well in Hawaii and during the PGA Tour's early-season West Coast swing. And with a shortened 2013 PGA Tour season ending in early October as it goes away from its calendar-year schedule, he wouldn't have the usual number of tournaments to earn the required amount of money to retain the fully exempt status that he's maintained for the past four years.
If Levin returned in late October for the start of the 2014 season with a medical extension, he would have the full season to keep his status. Levin finished 68th on the PGA Tour money list in 2012 with earnings of $1,283,616 even missing the last month of the season.
"He wouldn't lose anything other than a year off his career, basically," Canning said. "You rarely hear a story about a guy who says, 'Wow, I waited too long to come back.' "
Given that Levin usually plays as many events as anyone on the PGA Tour, what would he do with all of his free time?
Not resume smoking, hopefully. Canning confirmed that Levin kicked the habit in the fall.
Empire Ranch golf club will be featured in the 2013 Northern California Golf Association annual blue book that will hit members' mailboxes later this month.
The Folsom course grew its membership in the past year by more than 100 to 470, a spike that caught the attention of the NCGA, said Scott Seward, the organization's director of communications.
"They're flourishing at a time when golf participation has been stagnant," Seward said. "Their growth isn't unprecedented, but it's certainly stellar."
How did Empire Ranch do it? Hint: mixing up formats and providing access to some of the area's private courses.
Corey Pereira finished third in the Junior Orange Bowl International last weekend in Florida in a field filled with the best under-19 players in the world. The Cameron Park resident and Ponderosa High School senior, who's become a national force in the past year, will play collegiately at Washington.
Five $2,000 college scholarships for 2013 are available to high school seniors through the Morton Golf and HB Scholarship foundations. Candidates must have participated in an NCGA, First Tee of Greater Sacramento or high school golf program, or worked at a golf facility. Go to www.golfandguitars.com for more criteria and an application.