College season takes backseat for U.S. Am champ

Steven Fox is making his second career PGA Tour start this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Steven Fox has been living the college dream.

He appeared Tuesday on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, he’s making his second PGA Tour start this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and is playing in his first major championship in just a few short weeks.

You know, that small get-together at Augusta National?

Unfortunately for Fox, he hasn’t been around a lot for the Chattanooga Mocs’ season.

“I’m not in town much. I’ve missed three or four weeks of school already this semester,” Fox said.

In the fall, Fox played on Team USA at the World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey at the beginning of October. He missed the team’s third tournament of the year.

He has played in first two events of the spring for the Mocs, but this week, the team is on the road at the Furman Intercollegiate in Greenville, S.C., while he’s at Bay Hill.

“I miss a lot, so it’s hard to balance everything,” Fox said. “I really like being with the team, especially on the road.”

In the spring’s first two events, he finished T-18 and T-63, respectively.

But this week at Bay Hill, his game seems to be in top shape and ready for his second start on Tour, thanks to winning the Amateur in August.

“I took a lot from Torrey Pines,” Fox said of his first PGA Tour start, a missed cut after rounds of 70-78 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. “My nerves are kind of settled, and I feel like I belong out here.

“I love it (the course)," Fox said of Bay Hill. "Dr. Bob Winters was out here yesterday and walked around all 18 holes with me and kept saying that this course really fits me well, and I totally agree with him. If you hit fairways out here, which I do, and if you get around the greens and stuff like that, with some very delicate chips and some creativity around the greens, it sets up good for me.”

On Tuesday, Fox, of Hendersonville, Tenn., played a practice round with Scott Stallings, who is from Knoxville. Both players share the same swing coach, Brad Rose, to whom Fox switched after Torrey Pines.

“My swing is getting better,” Fox said. “He (Rose) said it (my swing) looks perfect and that I’m hitting the ball pretty well, so I’m excited for Thursday.”

On top of his exemption this week, Fox also got into the RBC Heritage, the Memorial Tournament, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. He also received a sponsor exemption into the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

Fox had to decline his offer to the RBC Heritage because the tournament conflicts with the Southern Conference Championships. And it’s a split decision on playing in the Memorial Tournament, too, because that’s the week of the NCAA Championships. If Chattanooga were to qualify, you know where he’ll be.

“I definitely want to be there for the team,” Fox said.

Fox also is trying to get into the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, a three-hour drive from his home.

“It would be nice to get in there,” Fox said.

He added the John Deere Classic to the list of other events he’s trying to enter.

Other than those tournaments, he may play in two amateur events over the summer leading up to his title defense at the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Next week, he’ll be back in Chattanooga to catch up on classes and schoolwork, but then it’s on to Augusta National. The week before the Masters, he is playing in the annual Georgia Cup at the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta. The event matches the U.S. Amateur champion against the British Amateur champion, which is Alan Dunbar of Northern Ireland.

What is Fox most looking forward to at the Masters?

“The Par 3 Contest should be fun,” he said.

Just living the college dream.

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