published Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Steven Fox wins Tennessee Amateur championship by five

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    State Amateur Champion, Steven Fox, putts during the final round of the State Amateur Golf Tournament on Friday at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. Fox finished the tournament with a score of 270, 10 under par. Staff photo by Shawn Paik
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Steven Fox had to send the Havemeyer Trophy back to the USGA a few days ago.

He replaced it with another storied trophy Friday.

The defending U.S. Amateur champion won the Tennessee Amateur championship by shooting a four-round total of 10-under-par 270 at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club to earn the Martin J. Condon trophy.

"It would have been a cool picture to hold both trophies at the same time," said Fox, the recent University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfer who departs today for Brookline, Mass., where he will attempt to defend the national championship he won almost a year ago.

Fox plans to become a professional golfer shortly after the U.S. Amateur, but he will return to UTC for at least the fall semester because he is 19 hours away from graduating.

"Not a lot of kids who turn pro come back to school," UTC coach Mark Guhne said. "It's good that UTC has a fifth-year program and Fox will be on it to get closer, and hopefully finish his degree."

Fox shot a final-round of 3-under 67 on Friday. Birdies on the 16th and 17th holes eliminated late-tournament drama and helped him win by five strokes.

Last year's winner, Tim Jackson of Germantown, and former Baylor School golfer Keith Mitchell of Chattanooga tied for second place at 5-under 275. Payne Denman of Riverwatch placed fourth at 276, while Matt Cooper of Memphis and former Baylor golfer Ryan Thornton tied for fifth at 277.

"It's hard to catch a U.S. Amateur champion when he has the lead," said Mitchell, who followed up a 63 Thursday with a 67 in the final round. "You know he's not going to back up on a course he knows well, so you have to go get him."

Mitchell tried. Thornton -- who hosted Fox, Fox's fellow Hendersonville High School alumnus Carson Jacobs and all three caddies at his childhood residence for the week -- tried to make a run, too.

So did Jackson, who did not partake in any of the shenanigans from the Thornton home, where 15-20 players stayed during the week, cheering and jeering shots into the fifth green.

"I made a lot of mistakes in the first two or three days," Jackson said. "I don't think I could have shot 63 today, but maybe I could have been closer coming into today. I'm happy with my week."

And, as somebody who has played in 52 USGA events, he is pleased that Fox won the championship Jackson has claimed five times.

"I'm glad Steven played," Jackson said. "He could have been out there [near Boston] getting ready to defend. But this was also probably pretty good preparation for the U.S. Amateur."

The Tennessee Amateur championship flipped in a matter of 45 minutes -- the time it took the final group to play four holes surrounding the turn.

Jacobs went to 8 under with an eagle on No. 7 and took a one-shot lead over old buddy Fox, who bogeyed two of his first three holes, and a three-shot lead on Thornton.

Then Jacobs bogeyed No. 8. The Vanderbilt sophomore then scored a double-bogey on the par-3 ninth by hitting his tee shot into a hazard right of the green, taking a drop, hitting a shot and three-putting. He went from tied for the lead to two shots down. Jacobs also bogeyed No. 10 and then went four shots down when Fox birdied No. 11.

"I pushed a 7-iron on No. 9, and where I missed you can't do that," said Jacobs, who tied for eighth at 279. "I knew Steven was going to stay in it. A couple bad shots killed me. Part of my game plan was to not make a double-bogey."

Fox owned the lead through the final nine holes and never had another player pressure him. Thornton conceded the championship, at least in his mind, when the former Moc striped a 3-wood to within 20 feet of the 16th hole, a par-5.

"That's when I was like, 'This is Fox's tournament,'" Thornton said. "And I'm like, 'This has been fun.'"

It's the best send-off Fox could have heading into the final amateur tournament of his career.

"After the first three holes, it didn't look promising for me today," Fox said. "But when I went up four, I never thought that would happen."

He also never thought he'd play in the 2013 U.S. Amateur as the defending champion.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

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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