UTC's Fox on US Amateur run: "Beyond my wildest dreams"
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Steven Fox stared at the two-foot tall Havemayer Trophy that sat next to him in McKenzie Arena's media room Tuesday afternoon.
The prize was tangible proof that he is, in fact, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champion.
Problem is, Fox is still having trouble believing it.
"Really, none of it has sunk in yet," he said with a bleary-eyed smile. "It's just beyond my wildest dreams."
Seriously. He didn't have plans to win when he arrived at Cherry Hills Country Club last week.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga admitted his lone goal at the prestigious Colorado course was just to qualify for the match play bracket and "see what happens."
He didn't pack a razor (hence the beard) and said he packed seven days worth of clothes, but hadn't really planned that far ahead.
"I brought enough clothes (for the whole week), but after a few days I didn't have anything left that really went together," said Fox, who noted UTC coach Mark Guhne flew out to Colorado Saturday night with plenty of Blue and Gold to wear in Sunday's final. "By those last couple of days I had some light greens and dark blues, but nothing that really matched.
"I purchased a pink shirt at the pro shop earlier in the week and wore it in the semifinals on Saturday. They actually put that shirt on display and said 'Get your Steven Fox shirt,' and they sold out of it. That was pretty cool."
Fox had barely survived the cut after two rounds of stroke play, advancing through a 17-player-for-14-spots playoff to nab the No. 63 seed in the 64-man match play bracket.
He cruised through the first two rounds just enjoying the ride, then started to change his mindset in Thursday's Round of 16.
"That's when I first thought, 'Someone's gotta win this thing, why not me?'" he said.
That thought gained steam when Fox ousted the world's top-ranked amateur player in the quarterfinals and Cal's Brandon Hagy with a final-hole birdie in the semis.
It wasn't until he stood on the 18th green Sunday, down one on the championship match's 36th and seemingly final hole, that Fox felt his chance had slipped away.
Then the unthinkable happened when Michael Weaver missed a five-foot par putt that would have won the match.
"Watching his putt, I seriously don't think I breathed for the next 10 seconds," Fox recalled. "I had my hand over my mouth. I was in total shock. To think about what he's going through, I can't even imagine."
Fox experienced the absolute opposite of Weaver's pain just a few moments later on the first playoff hole, following the line set by his caddy and assistant coach, Ben Rickett, into golf history.
"We picked a line and literally rolled the ball one or two rotations and it went all the way down," he said, replaying the 18-foot, championship-winning birdie putt in his head. "As it got closer I just kept saying please, please, please.
"It went in and I think I blacked out. It was unreal."
It was a similar reaction back in the Scenic City, where UTC is still celebrating what is possibly the greatest moment in Mocs' athletics history.
"I'm in my 19th year, and it made me think about when we went to the Sweet 16 (in basketball), but this is even on top of that," said UTC interim athletic director Laura Herron, who noted the school has received record hits online and in the press following Fox's win. "The national exposure we've gotten, you can't buy that. But the best part is Steven. He's so humble and such a good kid. He just wants to get checked into the dorm and get to his classes."
But that's been a little difficult with all the attention Fox has received the past two days.
Calls from Senator Bob Corker and legends of the game like Arnold Palmer, along with texts from touring pros like Brandt Snedeker and Robert Garrigus, have kept him on a constant high.
Fox left behind the 4-iron used during the approach shot on his match-clinching birdie in the semifinals, as well as the 60-degree wedge he swung with precision all week, to be placed in his soon-to-be enshrined section of Cherry Hills' Hall of Champions.
To the Hendersonville, Tenn., native, it's an easy trade considering the support he's received in return. That, and the two-foot tall trophy that now bares his name alongside some of all-time giants of the game.
"They mentioned me on the plane and gave me ovation. I got to Nashville and people welcomed me at the gate. The support I've had is unreal," Fox said. "I got a little teary-eyed on the plane thinking about the people who have supported me. I'm was at a loss for words.
"To have my name on here with Robert Trent Jones, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods won this three years in a row. Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar. And now Steven Fox? It's too good to be true. It's going to look weird for sure."