Mocs' Steven Fox in U.S. Amateur final

Mocs' Steven Fox in U.S. Amateur final

August 19th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC senior golfer Steven Fox watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the semifinal round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., on Saturday. Photo by USGA

Steven Fox has one more match to play in the 112th U.S. Amateur - the championship match.

With one round to play, he's already won in several ways.

By defeating Brandon Hagy 2 up on Saturday in the semifinals at Cherry Hills Country Club, Fox earned a 50-50 chance to win the national amateur championship.

Fox also earned a guaranteed spot in the 2013 Masters and the 2013 U.S. Open -- the two most prestigious golf tournaments held on American soil. A victory today also gets him into the British Open.

"It hasn't all sunk in yet," Fox said via cell phone. "Now that I'm here in the finals, now I have to win it."

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior defeated Hagy by doing what he does best. Fox hit fairways and then pitched, chipped and putted his way to victory.

"My short game has saved me," said Fox, who was given suite tickets to Saturday's Broncos game courtesy of John Elway and Peyton Manning. "It's been outstanding."

A near-perfect approach to the elevated 18th green sealed the match. Fox struck a 4-iron from about 206 yards to within six feet of the cup.

"The shot on 18 was unreal," Fox said in the USGA post-match interview. "Best shot of my life -- by far."

Hagy's approach left him about 45 feet away, resulting in the need to make the long putt to extend the match. Hagy's putt rolled beyond Fox's ball mark.

Hagy conceded the hole and thus the match to the newest Chattanooga-based golf star.

"Playing in the Masters is every golfer's dream," Fox said. "I never expected to get this far. I'm absolutely ecstatic."

In the 36-hole championship match, Fox will face University of California junior Michael Weaver, who defeated NCAA player of the year Justin Thomas of Alabama 3 and 2. They tee off at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and NBC will begin television coverage at 4 p.m.

Hagy and Fox halved each of the first four holes. Then Fox rolled in a birdie putt on No. 5 to go 1 up. Hagy won the next hole with a birdie. Fox bogeyed No. 9 to go 1 down.

Fox's journey to Saturday's victory began on the par-4 14th when Hagy bogeyed. Then Hagy bogeyed the par-3 15th as Fox went 1 up.

"I was a little teary-eyed from No. 16 on, and I got ahead of myself," Fox said. "I was thinking, 'I'm in the driver's seat' and about the Masters and U.S. Open."

Hagy and Fox halved the next two holes, leaving Hagy in a spot where he needed to birdie the final hole to send the match to extra holes.

It missed. Fox won. The players and caddies shook hands. Fox and his father and caddie, Alan, then shared an emotional embrace.

"I took my hat off, shook everybody's hand, then me and my dad had what seemed like a two-minute hug," Fox said. "We both started tearing up a bit."

Fox, who's from Hendersonville, Tenn., joins former Baylor School golfer Luke List as the only Chattanooga-linked golfers to reach the finals of a USGA national event. List lost 2 up to Ryan Moore in the 2004 U.S. Amateur at Winged Foot.

"This is huge for the program," said UTC coach Mark Guhne, who spent the morning attached to his smart-phone, checking scores, while participating in the First Tee Shootout charity event.

"It shows that we're bringing in some of the best kids in the country," Guhne said while booking airplane tickets to Denver. "It shows that he's doing the right things here, and we're doing it the right way here."

Guhne and a few UTC golf fans arranged Saturday to go to Denver so they can attend the final match of the U.S Amateur.

"From the course record in the Bowling Green Regional [8-under 64 in the second round at the Club at Olde Stone] to reaching the Sweet 16 of the [U.S.] Publinks to this -- every day he feels better about his ability to play at this level," Guhne said. "He's grown."

And no matter what happens today, Fox has won. Of course he'd like to win today too.