Chattanooga senior Steven Fox has set a modest goal for the first of what he hopes will be many PGA Tour events he’ll play in his golf career.
“My first goal is to make the cut,” Fox said by phone from La Jolla, Calif., home to the famed Torrey Pines North and South Courses, which play host every year to the Farmers Insurance Open that begins play on Thursday. “It’s just like at the U.S. Amateur. My goal was to make the round of 64 (and match play). If I make the cut, it’ll set different goals depending on where I’m at.”
That approach served Fox well at the U.S. Amateur, which he won in dramatic fashion to earn his spot playing against the pros this week. Poor weather in Chattanooga last week prevented him from practicing as much as he would have liked, and, asked to give a letter grade assessment of his game heading into the tournament, he was neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic.
“I’d say B, B minus,” Fox said. “But it’s getting better.”
Since he checked into Torrey Pines on Sunday, Fox has played the South Course twice and the North Course once.
“The North Course is a lot shorter and you can score a lot better,” Fox said. “The South Course is all you’d want in a golf course—7,600 yards, the rough is getting pretty high, the greens are smooth and rolling really well.”
Fox has been wide eyed as he takes in the atmosphere surrounding a Tour event. He’s played practice rounds or parts of rounds with J.D. Holmes, Troy Matteson and Rod Pampling. He’s been treated “like royalty,” by TaylorMade representatives. TaylorMade provides equipment for the UTC golf program.
“Day after day, I get a little less nervous,” Fox said. “I’ve been working on the swing a little bit, and it’s getting better. I’ve been rolling the ball pretty well and getting a feel for the greens. I’m starting to get used to all this.”
The experience will be good practice for Fox, who, thanks to his Amateur victory, will get to play in the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open this season. Next up is the Masters, and Fox has already played four rounds at Augusta National alongside a member of the club.
Playing from the back tees, Fox shot 70-74 one day and 72-73 the next.
“It was a lot of fun,” Fox said. “It’s another course that gives you all you could want. It’ll take some getting used to, just like (Torrey Pines) has this week. But it was awesome just being out there.”
UTC coach Mark Guhne thinks his star player has a chance to add to his growing list of accomplishments this week.
“I think he’ll handle himself pretty well,” Guhne said. “I know he was pretty nervous about going out there; you could tell before he left. But he’s also excited about playing. He’s going to be teeing it up at Torrey Pines with the best players in the world. These aren’t college guys.”