Several thousand golf fans assembled around the final green applauded Steven Fox after he made the final putt in his most recent competitive round.
That putt came on the Friday of the Masters, and the applause continued as he removed his hat and shook hands with playing competitors Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter.
The crowds for Fox's next competitive rounds will be significantly smaller. And the stakes will return to normal when the U.S. Amateur champion plays for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the Southern Conference tournament beginning today.
"It's going to be different," Fox said. "From the nerves standpoint, it's going to feel like a regular 18 holes.
"I enjoy it. I played well at conference last year, and it can separate the good players from the great players."
Winning the U.S. Am and playing in the Masters were dreams that will continue when Fox plays in the U.S. Open and British Open. Winning the SoCon tournament as a part of the team is a goal.
After all, the Mocs have won four of the last six SoCon championships, including last year when Stephan Jaeger won medalist honors and helped UTC win by 19 strokes.
"We have a good record at conference, we usually play well during postseason, and knowing that if we win, we get a championship ring," Fox said. "It's awesome to win, and it's a terrible feeling to lose."
Jaeger graduated from that team and Davis Bunn will be joined by 2012 competitors Fox, Chris Robb, Benni Weilguni, Liam Johnston as they compete in the three-day tournament at the Ralston Creek Course in Daniel Island, S.C.
"This is what we've been working for all year and the countless hours we've put in," Bunn said. "It's time for all of our skills to be put to the test."
UTC is the top ranked team in the tournamen, coming in at No. 50 based on GolfWeek. Georgia Southern at 57, College of Charleston at 93 and Davidson at 95 also are in the top 100.
"Throughout the spring we've played a little better each time," coach Mark Guhne said. "It will be nice to have Steven back because he's had a busy spring. It's good for all of us that the Masters is behind us."
Regardless where the Mocs finish this week -- barring their worst finish in the Guhne era -- they will be advancing to one of six NCAA regionals with a chance to play for the national championship just outside Atlanta. But the SoCon comes first.
"We have to get this weekend done first," Guhne said. "Going to NCAAs is great, but not winning conference puts a lot of disappointment on any season. One of our goals every year is to win the SoCon and bring that trophy back to Chattanooga. In a way, it's the tournament with the most pressure."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
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 ...