ROCKY FACE, Ga. — The NBC cameras were nowhere to be seen, and galleries averaged about five people per group instead of 5,000.
Even though the Carpet Capital Collegiate is a premier tournament, it's far from the U.S. Amateur, which is where Steven Fox played his last round of competitive golf before teeing off Friday morning at The Farm Golf Club.
Fox, a senior for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, followed his victory at Cherry Hills with a solid 1-under-par 71 despite a lack of practice following the celebration of his historic victory.
"I was excited to play, but I didn't know how it was going to go because I hadn't been in a tournament since the U.S. Am," said Fox, who won the national championship in 37 holes over Michael Weaver on Aug. 19. "Actually, I haven't had a good practice since, so I didn't know what to expect."
Fox battled the internal pressure to validate his victory with a quality round and a quality tournament.
"Everybody thought he was going to struggle today," UTC coach Mark Guhne said. "But with his attitude and personality, I thought he'd play good and he did. It had to be really hard to play well in the first tournament after that win."
Guhne's satisfaction ended with Fox. The Mocs as a group went from 5 under par, which would have them in second place, to 4 over by shooting 9 over on the final two holes.
Their 292 leaves them tied for eighth with Middle Tennessee State and Clemson. Georgia leads at 10-under 278, and Alabama is second at 284.
"We got off to a good start and played well for three-fourths of the day," Guhne said. "We didn't finish very well today — rough. We're better than that."
UTC junior Chris Robb, who shot a 76, closed his round with a double-bogey on No. 17 — an uphill par-4 that measures 461 yards on the card but plays longer due to elevation — and a triple-bogey on 18.
Senior Alex Ratliff double-bogeyed No. 18 to shoot 75, and sophomore Liam Johnston bogeyed each of the last two holes but still led the Mocs with a 2-under 70.
"I'm not going to hang my head," Johnston said. "I'm going to take a lot of positives from today and get on with it. We start again tomorrow."
UTC will be paired with UNC and MTSU and begin play at 9 a.m. off No. 1.
"There was a lot of good golf out there today, and that's something to start with and build on," Guhne said. "We need to finish better and get some really good rounds on the board if we're going to get back into contention."
Georgia senior T.J. Mitchell shot 65 to lead the medalist race. He made eight birdies and one bogey and shot a 6-under 30 on the back nine.
"I cruised around the front nine and I knew there were birdie opportunities on the back," Mitchell said. "I had a couple of good reads and good putts. It's just the first round. I have a lot of work left to do."
Johnston is tied for eighth. Fox is tied for 15th. He made four birdies, one bogey and a double-bogey on No. 6 by hitting into a hazard he had never seen before. He shot 2 under on the back nine.
"I'm happy, I'm pleased, even though I didn't hit it well," Fox said. "I missed quite a few putts. But [assistant coach] Ben [Rickett] said it's a good 71, so I'm pleased."
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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