ROCKY FACE, Ga. (WRCB/UTC) -- No more national TV audiences for Steven Fox.
It's back to the college golf grind for the reigning U.S. Amateur champion when he joins the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf team at the Carpet Capital Collegiate this weekend.
Shockingly, Fox did not qualify first for the Mocs' lineup ahead of Friday morning's 9 a.m. ET tee time.
"Nope. He didn't even make the cut," head coach Mark Guhne said with a smile. "I'm just kidding. We gave him an exemption (from qualifying)."
Guhne said it will be the only such free pass for Fox during his senior year, but that's how the Hendersonville native likes it.
"The great thing about Fox is he wanted everything to get back to normal," Guhne said. "He's part of this team and we had that talk. He doesn't want to be treated differently than anybody else."
While Fox would prefer that nothing change, he can't help but notice that practice has become a bit more competitive. Everybody wants to brag they beat the U.S. Amateur champion, but they also want to prove UTC is more than a one-man team.
"Playing with a guy that's the U.S. Am champ really prepares us to work harder and fight for that next level," said junior Davis Bunn. "We want to play better and finish better at tournaments."
Guhne has already noticed the difference not only in his team's play, but in its confidence.
"Probably the toughest thing for us to do as coaches is convince these guys how good they are. I think this has definitely helped that," Guhne said. "Now they can really see where they stand and it's helped them believe they can compete with the best because they play against Fox every day."
Chattanooga will have that confidence tested early at The Farm, which traditionally welcomes one of the toughest fields in the country for the Carpet Capital.
This year's select group includes NCAA champion Texas and the national runner-up in Alabama. Also invited are Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, LSU, Middle Tennessee, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest, North Florida and North Carolina.
"When we won in 2008, it meant our program had arrived," Guhne said. "This is one of the best tournaments our guys will ever play, amateur or pro. It is a special event at a special place."
The tournament opens on Friday, September 7, and runs through Sunday, September 9. It is a 54-hole event with 18 holes played per day.
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