A Fox is in the hunt.
Steven Fox, the defending U.S. Amateur champion, shot a 3-under 67 including six birdies over his final nine holes Wednesday at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club and will enter the third round of the Tennessee Amateur two shots behind Grant Milner.
“I’m not at my goal,” said Fox, who played for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “I have to learn how to play the front nine, then go to the back and let birdies fly.”
The afternoon wave of players, including Fox, endured a weather delay of about two hours, 45 minutes. There are 27 players who need to complete their second round, and only former Chattanooga resident Josh Nelms shot under par in the first round.
Milner shot a 3-under 67 with a double-bogey on his first hole and then another two holes later on No. 12. But he birdied seven of the next 12 holes and returned to his hotel before maids cleaned the room.
“It’s hard to believe I’m in the lead because I got off to that awful start,” said Milner, who recently ended his eligibility with the University of Memphis Tigers. “Leading after the first round doesn’t mean anything. Leader after the second doesn’t mean much either.”
The delay benefited Fox. He shot 2-over on the front and waited on the 10th tee when the siren blared. During the wait, he complained of back pain and considered withdrawing from the tournament. The pain subsided before he took his first swing on No. 10. He proceeded to score six birdies and a lip-out bogey to end the day.
“I wanted to get to even and salvage something on the back,” Fox said. “Then things just went together. I know how to play that side.”
Other Chattanoogans have some course knowledge that they put to good use on Wednesday. Chris Schmidt shot the low-round of the tournament with a 65. He, Ryan Thornton, Richard Keene and Neil Spitalny are all tied for seventh at 2-under 138.
Schmidt made eight birdies including three straight to start his round after he shot 3 over on the first day.
“I had to have a 65 at some point because of the position I put myself in,” Schmidt said. “I needed on either today, tomorrow or the next day. Shoot, I may very well need another 65.”
Spitalny made five birdies. Keene made three birdies, holed-out for an eagle on No. 14 with a 60-degree wedge from 87 yards. He also suffered four bee stings — one up the leg of his shorts — and a bogey on No. 4.
“That was a good break to get relief from the high-high stuff, but I paid for it,” Keene said. “It’s good to be in red numbers [under par] at the State Am.”
<em>Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.</em>