published Monday, August 20th, 2012

UTC's Fox rallies to win U.S. Amateur

  • photo
    UTC golf team member Steven Fox reacts to winning the 37th hole of the U.S. Amateur golf tournament Sunday at Cherry Hills to beat Michael Weaver in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Steven Fox held his white University of Tennessee at Chattanooga cap in his hand while watching Michael Weaver putt on the 36th hole of the U.S. Amateur final match Sunday.

Fox believed Weaver would sink the putt and beat him by the narrowest of margins, but the ball rimmed around the cup and spun to the side, giving Fox another chance to make golfing history for Chattanooga.

He and Weaver went into a sudden-death playoff to determine the national amateur championship, a prize previously claimed by the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods — legends of the game.

Fox won on the first extra hole.

The UTC senior swept in an 18-foot birdie putt, resulting in his father running onto the green for a hug with caddie Ben Rickett and jubilation for those wearing blue-and-gold at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, plus UTC supporters everywhere.

"It's one of the most important moments in Mocs sports history in a long time, maybe ever," said UTC chancellor Roger Brown, who watched from his den the final match in the Denver suburb. "I was so proud of the way Steven conducted himself, and watching our Chattanooga brand -- with an international audience -- with the 'Power C' on his hand and 'Chattanooga' on his bag were tremendous thrills."

Fox claimed the most prestigious amateur tournament in the world with an incredible comeback from 2 down with two holes to play. Weaver's lipout gave the Moc another shot.

"I was ready to congratulate him," Fox said via cell phone. "I was completely shocked that he missed.

"This is awesome. I'm ecstatic."

Fox's name will be engraved on the Havemeyer Trophy alongside the legends and such other champions as Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar.

By virtue of his victory, Fox will play in the next Masters, the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club and the British Open at Muirfield next year — if he remains an amateur.

"This is unreal," he said during his post-match USGA interview. "I mean, it doesn't even feel real. The whole week is like a dream to me. I can't really express it in words."

A poster-sized picture of Fox and one of his golf clubs — and perhaps other donated items — will join the Cherry Hills collection that includes memorabilia from Nicklaus, Palmer and Chattanooga legend Lew Oehmig, who won the 1976 U.S. Senior Amateur on the same grounds.

"It was a pretty remarkable day," UTC coach Mark Guhne said over the phone. "It's a historic day for us — us being UTC. It's phenomenal. I don't know any other way to put it."

Weaver maintained an advantage in the head-to-head match for most of the day. The University of California golfer led 2 up through the first 18 holes of the 36-hole match.

Fox pulled within 1 down on hole No. 15, but Weaver won No. 16 with a smooth birdie putt that put the Hendersonville, Tenn., resident down dormie. But Fox rallied with a birdie on the par-3 17th.

That set up the drama on the final hole of regulation. Weaver needed to halve the hole and become enshrined. Fox needed to extend the match.

The putt that could have won the championship for Weaver swirled around the cup but failed to drop.

"It looked dead-center," said Rickett, the UTC assistant coach who caddied the final 19 holes in place of Fox's blister-footed father, who had caddied all week. "Fox put his hand over his mouth, and my jaw dropped to the green."

Weaver hit three awful shots on the playoff hole. Fox hit the fairway, then the green and then stroked in a birdie putt win it all — the U.S. Amateur championship.

"I'm always fighting," said Fox, who had the next-to-last seeding when match play began. "I've never beeen one to give up."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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