published Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

UTC Mocs' Steven Fox in PGA field at Torrey Pines

UTC golfer Steven Fox takes a shot during the 2012 Carpet Capital Collegiate golf tournament, held at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.
UTC golfer Steven Fox takes a shot during the 2012 Carpet Capital Collegiate golf tournament, held at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Steven Fox is playing in paradise.

He played golf Tuesday at the famed Torrey Pines course in San Diego, where the temperature reached 79 degrees.

He'll be there at least through Friday, and he'd prefer to earn a stay through the entire weekend.

Fox, a senior golfer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is playing in the Farmers Insurance Open on a sponsor's exemption that he earned by winning the U.S. Amateur in August.

Playing against the pros this week is part of a long list that comes with winning the Havemeyer Trophy and providing Chattanooga with its greatest athletic accomplishment since the UTC basketball team reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997.

"With this being my first PGA Tour event, I'm like a kid in a candy shop and getting a vibe for the tournament," Fox said via cellphone late Monday. "Each day that comes, I get more and more comfortable."

It's easy to understand having some uneasiness and some nerves.

He's sharing the practice range with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and most of the best golfers in the world.

Fox's father, Alan, said Steven played a practice round Tuesday with PGA Tour veteran Rod Pampling.

"Rod and his group were terrific," Alan Fox said in a text message. "He helped Steven understand what happens and discussed the course and strategy. He could not have been better."

Fox said he's crossed paths with Tour regulars Troy Matteson and J.B. Holmes. Fox also said he's bumped into a few folks he knows from early in his college years, including former Baylor School golfer Harris English, former Alabama standout Bud Cauley, Virginia graduate Ben Kohles and former Augusta State players Henrik Norlander and Patrick Reed.

They're all professionals now. They're playing for pay.

Fox is not, at least for now. He will remain an amateur playing for UTC and then as an individual through the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the Walker Cup. He earned entry into those major events with his major amateur victory at Cherry Hills in Colorado, when he came back from 2 down with two holes to play and won on the first playoff hole.

"How about that cat?" said former UTC golfer Kip Henley, who won "Big Break II" and has played in more than a handful of PGA Tour events. "He sure comes across as a decent kid. I'd love to talk to him and give him a couple tips about the Tour."

Henley caddies for Brian Gay, who won the Humana Challenge on Sunday, and said he'd try to pair Gay and Fox for a practice round at Augusta National before the Masters.

"There are 100 percent odds that I'd like to do it, and I think it would be an honor for [Gay] to play with the U.S. Amateur champion," said Henley, whose brother Brent caddies for Tour veteran Robert Garrigus. "Three Chattanooga boys at Augusta would be pretty cool."

Fox is grouped Thursday and Friday with former Florida All-American Billy Horschel and recent Minnesota graduate Donald Constable, who earned a PGA Tour card through Q-school.

They will begin the tournament off the North Course hole No. 1 on Thursday at 10 a.m., then begin Friday's round off No. 10 at the South Course at 11 a.m.

"This is like the Am -- make the cut, then re-evaluate my goals and set a new one for the weekend," Fox said. "I'll go with the same plan I had for the Amateur."

The grouping is not one that GolfChannel likely will feature. But there may be glimpses of Fox sporting the UTC "Power C" logo embroidered into his shirt, his cap, his head-covers and his custom-made TaylorMade golf bag.

"We have a player at Torrey Pines, and it gives more and more notoriety and more attention and more brand recognition to our program," UTC coach Mark Guhne said from a Jones Cup qualifier. "This is Steven's first time to tee it up against the best in the world.

"I'd like to see him put together a couple of good rounds and feel good. If he makes the cut, that would be fantastic."

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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